A: There definitely is a connection between anxiety and disturbing dreams. We saw this after 9/11 as well — people were having an increase in vivid, disturbing dreams or nightmares.
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We actually still don’t know a lot about why we dream. But one of the theories behind dreaming is that you’re sort of processing things from the day. It’s your brain trying to file away information. It doesn’t always make sense — it’s pieces and parts of things. But when we’re inundated with things that are stressful, that tends to come out in our dreams.
It could also be that our sleep patterns are causing us to have more awareness that we’re having these dreams. We remember our dreams more when we wake out of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. We have multiple REM periods during the night, but they tend to occur more in the later morning period. If we’re spending more time in bed these days and getting more REM sleep, that could be a factor.
There are a few things you can to do try to decrease how often you’re having these dreams. One would be trying to avoid watching the news before bedtime and instead doing things that are more relaxing, and unplugging before bedtime so that’s not what you go into the night with.
— Sleep psychologist Michelle Drerup, PsyD