If you’ve been having strange dreams lately, you’re one of many, according to scientists
It’s not just you experiencing odd dreams since self-isolating and strict social-distancing measures were put in place—studies are already showing that people are having strange coronavirus-related dreams and nightmares and are more likely than they usually would be to remember them.
According to preliminary results from an ongoing study at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Centre in France that began in March, participants have seen a 35% increase in their ability to recall dreams. Participants also described having anxiety-producing dreams such as nightmares more often than “usual,” researchers said.
Frontline workers in hospitals and those in regions with a higher number of COVID-19 outbreaks were most likely to report the dreams, researchers found, with dreams often involving plots related to the pandemic.
Another study, being conducted by the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine, has found that participants are experiencing nightmares and problems such as waking often, sleepwalking, and confusion on waking, suggesting that some may be experiencing something like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rubin Naiman, a psychologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine and the sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona, said in the Los Angeles Times that the dreams are likely triggered by the abrupt change in our lifestyle. When we live through something out of the ordinary, our mind has to work harder to process and understand the new and challenging information we’re being presented with, and that process also happens through dreaming.
“When waking life is more vivid, so is dream life,” Naiman says. “At a time like this, we’re all directly or symbolically digesting information about the threat, about contagion.”
That more and more people are able to sleep later also contributes, experts say. Catching up on your sleep after periods of sleep deprivation can often lead to longer periods of REM sleep, the stage in which our dreams play out, and the more time you spend dreaming, the more likely you’ll remember those dreams.