Mercury retrograde—which happens when the planet is moving slower than its planetary counterparts and thus appears to be moving backward—has been in full effect since September 27 and is lasting through October 17. The transit generally happens a few times per year (this current instance is the final Mercury retrograde of 2021) and is infamously marked by issues that make communicating more difficult. But there are also implications that Mercury retrograde transits can have on your sleep, and—as you may guess—those effects aren’t necessarily the most positive.
While the typical communication issues associated with the transit may include having trouble resolving an argument with your partner or feeling slighted at work without speaking up, those are issues that crop up in your waking hours. These sorts of hiccups may compromise your plans, interactions, and relationships, but according to astrologer Stephanie Gailing, author of The Complete Guide to Astrological Self-Care, it’s also possible for Mercury retrograde to wreak havoc on your dream time. This could be because you’re prone to internalize certain issues instead of talk them out during this highly reflective time, she adds, and that can in turn impact what’s on your mind before you (try to) hit the hay.
“If your communication’s not going well and it’s on your mind…you will have more tension, you will have more worry, so, invariably, you might not sleep as well in general because you have things going over and over again in your mind.” —Stephanie Gailing, astrolger
“If your communication’s not going well and it’s on your mind…you will have more tension, you will have more worry, so, invariably, you might not sleep as well in general because you have things going over and over again in your mind,” says Gailing.
The tension and worry you feel in various arenas of life thanks to Mercury retrograde transits can be a result of trying to move forward in life during this time. That’s because Mercury retrograde asks us to reflect on what has happened in our lives in the past few months that Mercury has been direct, so if you’re not embracing that call to introspect, the effect can feel like swimming upstream against a strong current—and that energy can certainly lead to sleepless nights and wild dreams. Introspection aside, Gailing adds that communication snafus that tend to ensue during Mercury retrograde can cause symptoms of anxiety, which can also result in a lack of sleep.
How to deal with symptoms of anxiety connected to Mercury retrograde that might be compromising your sleep
“Mercury retrograde [inspires a] period of pause and reflection,” says Gailing, adding that thinking about “understanding, knowledge-gathering, and synthesis” during the period is paramount. Doing so can help you better plan for the future and be less stressed about the past—which can, in turn, help you reduce symptoms of anxiety and snag better sleep during these transits. Going over things and reconsidering the messages you’re trying to relay can help reduce tension you feel and allow you to have a more peaceful slumber.
Another strategy to help combat the sleep-compromising effects of Mercury retrograde? Journaling before bed. “The winding down process [before going to bed] is really important,” says Gailing. “Writing down your upsets or your worries from the day as well as your gratitude [can help] clear your mind so you’re not taking as much of that racing mind to bed with you.”
In addition to helping clear your mind, journaling can help you sort out how you really feel about something without first having to talk to someone else about it, and it also gives you the opportunity to plan for how to more effectively communicate what’s bothering you.
What Mercury retrograde may mean for your dreams
In addition to impacting the quality and quantity of sleep you get, Mercury retrograde can also have an impact on your dreams, says Gailing. If your mind is racing during the day, going over details and stoking anxious feelings, those sentiments can bleed into your dreams. “You may have a more agitated dream because you’re trying to work it out in your dream,” Gailing says. “It’s like leftovers that need to be digested.”
For example, if you’re feeling stressed out at work and haven’t talked to anyone about it, those feelings might be on your mind as you’re falling asleep.
If you wake up from dreams during Mercury retrograde feeling agitated, Gailing suggests asking yourself: “Is there something [in the dream] for me? Is there some level of understanding that I can source so that I can synthesize that to have a greater level of knowledge about what to do [and] what to say?”
After all, Mercury retrograde invites us to go back over our thoughts and actions and reconsider anything we might have missed. The idea is that when Mercury stations direct and it’s time to move forward, you can do so with a more holistic understanding of how to communicate, says Gailing. Ultimately, that understanding can soothe your anxiety about communication and lead to better sleep.
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