If you’ve noticed that your dreams are getting weirder, more disturbing, more violent or simply stranger lately, you’re by no means alone. Multiple research institutions are currently studying the effect Covid-19 and the pandemic are having on our dreams, and there appears to be consistent evidence that people are recalling more dreams, and that those they are recalling appear to be stranger than normal .
The Lyon Neuroscience Research Centre in France has been studying pandemic dreams since March this year and has reported a 35% increase in dream recall, with people on average experiencing 15% more disturbing dreams than normal . Meanwhile, the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine has been analyzing the dreams of Italians during lockdown and have reported nightmares at levels which would correspond with that expected of people experiencing PTSD .
There are a number of physiological reasons which could account for why people seem to be dreaming more. Because coronavirus has severely impacted people’s daily routines, it may be that many of us are simply sleeping for longer. If we don’t have to get up to go to work, for example, we’re more likely to sleep for longer, spending more time in REM sleep, and therefore more likely to have vivid dreams – and to remember them. Additionally, many people are under intense stress, which means we’re more likely to experience disturbed sleep. If you wake up restlessly during the night, you’re more likely to interrupt a period of REM sleep, which makes dream recall more likely. We all wake up multiple times a night, but often only for seconds, which we don’t remember. During stressful times, however, we wake up for longer periods. It takes a few moments after waking for the brain to start encoding memories, so the longer you remain awake in between bouts of sleep, the more likely you are to remember a dream.