Nightmares can be random or they can be triggered by life situations, so it’s no surprise that with so many people returning to the office right now, work is disrupting our dreams as well as our daytime hours.
In fact, people are reporting that they are dreaming more full stop at the moment, says psychologist Lee Chambers. General uncertainty about the future might be a factor, but returning to work can also generate heightened mental states, from anxiety to excitement.
“This can make it harder to sleep, increasing the chance of dreaming when we finally drift off,” Chambers explains. “The added stress can also make people more likely to have vivid dreams, and the change in our routines and restlessness mean we are more likely to wake and remember the vivid dream we have had.”
The number of us Googling ‘work nightmares’ has increased by 9,900% in the past three months, MattressNextDay has found. Dreams around work stress have seen a 43% increase in searches and searches for the meaning of clown dreams have risen by 15%
Want to know what your dreams could mean? Here are the nine most commonly searched-for dream scenarios of the past three months as , as people try to decode their night time visions.
1. Stress dreams about work
According to Chambers, stress dreams about work are “likely to relate to a feeling of overwhelm about all the unknowns of returning to the office and memories of those days previously at work when you were bombarded with deadlines and tasks to complete.”
2. Being naked in public
“This may relate to the feeling of being exposed, to new starters you haven’t met, to an office full of people, to new processes and clients. Or it may signify you feel unprepared and even struggling with imposter syndrome.”
3. Brakes not working in a car
Chambers explains “this is a dream that relates to the loss of control of going back to the office, loss of domestic comforts and the routine and control of being in an environment that you both own and design.”
4. Running away
A dream about running away often conveys a feeling of being chased more figuratively – in other words” the pressure to perform at work which might be amplified at the office, and the ever-increasing workload, demands, and distractions of being back in your workplace.”
If you are being actively chased by something, or someone, this can signal increased expectations we feel might be a threat to our wellbeing. “We start to consider this intensity as something that is following us at speed,” he says.
5. Being late
This one is understandable, says Chambers, “as many of us are out of the rhythm of commuting. Dreams about being late link back to a feeling of being unprepared or feeling like you’re not going to meet the expectations of you when you return to the workplace, falling short of the company’s expectations.”
Pregnancy doesn’t necessarily translate literally. “Dreams of pregnancy often relate to a new chapter and growth, so maybe you are looking forward to returning to the office or are seriously thinking about taking a new position or career decision,” Chambers explains
7. Swimming pool
Decoding dreams about swimming pools is “never an easy one”, Chambers says. “It depends how you react to the pool in your dream. If you can’t wait to jump in, it’s likely to suggest you are ready to return to the office. But if it comes with a feeling of dread, you might be worried about returning to the workplace being similar to being thrown in at the deep end.”
Similarly, this can go both ways. “If you reacted to the clown with fear, it might suggest you are worried about the return and the seriousness of being back in the official premises,” says Chambers. “On the other hand, if you’re being entertained, that is probably a sign you are ready for some office humour yourself after the seriousness of the past 18 months.”
9. Losing your job
“This is a sign of exhaustion and fatigue, which many have suffered from over the pandemic. It could mean you are not sure about your future career, or that things feel very unstable and insecure at the moment. But it might also represent the freedom of getting back out there and expressing yourself.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.