Since the coronavirus has dominated the news and effected the lives of millions worldwide have you noticed your dreams are more vivid? Weird? Scary? Or maybe your dreams are just more numerous?
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a thirty-five percent increase in dream recall among research participants, according to an ongoing study at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France that was initiated in March.
Patrick McNamara, an associate professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, explains that “We normally use REM sleep and dreams to handle intense emotions, particularly negative emotions. Obviously, this pandemic is producing a lot of stress and anxiety.”
Most people don’t typically remember many dreams. But living through the coronavirus pandemic might be changing that due to heightened isolation and stress. Both of these factors could be influencing the content of dreams and allowing some dreamers to remember more of their dreams. One reason for this is that anxiety and a lack of activity decrease sleep quality. If we are more restless in our sleep these days we are more likely to remember our dreams.
Deirdre Barrett, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard University, has collected and analyzed dreams from the survivors of traumatic events, including the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. Barrett began collecting coronavirus dreams in March. Some participants have reported dreaming they caught the virus or were dying from it. Other participants have reported dreams with anxiety-producing content but featuring figures such as zombies, natural disasters, shadowy figures, monsters, or mass shootings. Barrett notes these scary elements could be metaphoric figures. She explains, “The virus is invisible, and I think that’s why it’s transformed into so many different things” (in dreams).
Studies such as this one provide more evidence that our dream life supports us in moving through challenges during times of great stress.
If you’d like to participate in this research, you can take Dr. Barrett’s survey:
Photo credit: Associated Press
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