Diet changes, stress and anxiety in lockdown can cause poor sleep and vivid dreams


If you’re struggling with sleep difficulty you are not alone, Hypnotherapy Directory has seen a 104% increase in those looking for advice on sleep disorders* over the past year. While sister sites Nutritionist Resource and Counselling Directory can report a 207% increase in those looking for information on stress and 37% increase in information on anxiety respectively*. 

“Not surprisingly we are all experiencing mounting levels of stress” explains psychotherapist and Hypnotherapy Directory member Ann Hamilton who saw an increase in clients reporting sleep trouble and vivid dreams in the lockdown. Ann explains that there’s a clear link between additional stress, anxiety and less sleep.

“Increased cortisol elevates the stress response and shifts the sleep-wake balance in the brain which increases sleep fragmentation and ultimately leads to insomnia” she adds. 

One other factor affecting our sleep in lockdown is increased screen time explains Ann. “The blue light of our screens is a trigger to the brain to stop producing the friendly sleep hormone melatonin.”

Nutritionist Resource member Beanie Robinson has also seen an increase in clients looking for support with their sleep. She adds that one of the reasons for our poor sleep is because our eating routines have changed since lockdown:

“Often people do not know that the food they are eating could be having an impact on their sleep. Established routines have been interrupted and people have found their eating habits and behaviours have changed in some ways. 

“The added burden of work uncertainty, anxiety, boredom and frustration is likely to have an impact on the consumption of comfort foods and drink as a coping mechanism. This may include increased intake of alcohol, processed and highly refined sugars, snack foods and caffeine, all of which can affect our sleep.”

It’s not just disrupted sleep patterns that are affecting the nation either. Ann reports an increase in clients recalling vivid dreams or nightmares since the pandemic. “There is a connection between anxiety and disturbing dreams”, she says. 

“The brain processes information during our sleep and the added stress we are all experiencing may cause night-time waking at odd hours. Consequently, disturbing or vivid dreams may result as they are closely related to frequent nocturnal awakenings", explains Ann.

5 tips from Therapist Ann and Nutritionist Beanie for those struggling with their sleep patterns:

  1. Sleep in a cool dark room without any light sources - try using an eye mask to block out unwanted light.
  2. Have 2pm as your cut-off for caffeine. Caffeine stays in your system long after your last cup!
  3. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day. Exposing your skin to some direct sunlight is really good for rebalancing your circadian rhythm (sleep/ wake cycle).
  4. Make dinners lighter and earlier, latest 8pm.
  5. In the evenings, try to create the perfect sleep environment. Turn off your screens and dim the lights. Less artificial light will aid the production of melatonin (our master sleep hormone), which can help bring on sleepiness. 

You can use Hypnotherapy Directory, Nutritionist Resource or CounsellingDirectory for support with finding a professional to help with your sleep troubles.

*Please contact our press team on for more information about the data in this release.

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Written by Alice Greedus
Alice is the PR Manager for Counselling Directory and Happiful Magazine.

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