Does COVID-19 Cause Weird Dreams?

Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
Does Covid 19 cause weird dreams?
Research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on sleep and dream activity in healthy adults.

Anxiety and stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an increase in anxiety and panic-related conditions. Hence, it is natural that many people complain of altered sleep and nightmares. Epidemics and lockdowns have made it difficult to maintain routines and fall asleep, and many individuals have reported feeling more apprehensive than normal.

An increasing number of research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on sleep and dream activity in healthy adults. So far, no study has reported particularly dream activity in people with COVID-19.

Research on the pandemic’s effect on dreams

Online survey

An online survey that gathered data from various people was conducted during the first several weeks of the outbreak.

  • Based on the study, researcher Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, published a book Pandemic Dreams, in which she discussed some of the common themes and motifs that have emerged in people's dreams since the onset of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Moreover, she published research in the journal Dreaming in 2020 that looked at the effect of the pandemic on dreaming.

Barrett's research found that dreams connected with fear and other unpleasant feelings had grown since the pandemic, which she thinks is unsurprising. The dreaming research comprised 2,888 participants from all across the world.

  • It was shown that women reported lower levels of pleasant feelings and higher levels of anxiety, sorrow, anger, and references to biological processes, health, and mortality in their pandemic dreams.
  • Men reported greater frequencies of bad dreams during the pandemic although not at the same rate as women.

International COVID-19 Sleep Study

International COVID-19 Sleep Study compared 544 COVID-19 participants to 544 matched controls. Dream recollection (DRF) and nightmare frequency (NF) within-subjects between pre-pandemic and pandemic periods were taken and compared. Nonparametric and psychological indicators obtained throughout the pandemic were compared between controls and COVID-19 participants.

The results revealed that throughout the pandemic, there was an increase in dream activity.

Comparisons between controls and COVID-19 participants revealed the following:

  • There was no difference between groups in terms of DRF before and during the pandemic.
  • There was no difference between groups in terms of NF before the pandemic.
  • COVID-19 participants reported significantly higher NF than controls during the pandemic.

Furthermore, it was discovered that:

  • Anxiety, sadness, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptom ratings were higher in COVID-19 participants than in controls.
  • Quality of life, health, and well-being (WHO-5) scores were considerably higher in controls than in COVID-19 participants.

What can be done to overcome nightmares?

Nightmares can reduce the quality of sleep and lead to increased anxiety, loss of daytime concentration, and stress.

The following will help you have fewer nightmares:

  • Follow regular sleep time:
    • Deprivation of sleep causes reduced rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the period of sleep during which most dreams occur. When the brain is deprived of REM sleep, you may feel unpleasantness later that night or the next night. This is known as a REM sleep rebound effect, in which the brain enters REM sleep sooner, remains there longer, and has more vivid dreams.
    • Therefore, do your best to maintain a consistent sleep-wake cycle. Allow yourself plenty of time to sleep. Once you've established a pattern, it'll be worthwhile.
  • Think of happy thoughts:
    • Rehearse a fresh conclusion to that dream if you're dreaming the same thing again. For example, if you keep dreaming that you're stuck in a room with a bunch of sick-looking individuals, you may spend the time before bed thinking the room has an unlocked door that leads to some cheerful, healthy area.
  • Follow relaxation techniques:
    • Stress and anxiety-reduction activities, such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and physical activity, can all help lessen daytime anguish, which may in turn help minimize dreams triggered by these feelings.
Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

Nightmares in People with COVID-19: Did Coronavirus Infect Our Dreams?

Why Am I Having Weird Dreams During the Pandemic?