Experts report that Americans are experiencing a barrage of unsettling dreams as a nocturnal side effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School who has spent the last 40 yrs studying dreams, recently conducted a public survey to gather dream data related to the coronavirus. She discovered that people reported having nightmares about dangers and threats such as poison gas attacks, tidal waves and monsters, and, of course, a “ton of bug dreams.”
Dreaming occurs about every 90 mins during the R.E.M. stage of sleep, a period characterized by rapid eye movements. R.E.M. duration lengthens as we sleep, so the longer a person slumbers, the more intense and vibrant the dreams become says Dr. Barrett.
She tells NY-T’s that our current situation in some ways resembles experiences shared by soldiers at a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp, whose dreams records she analyzed in Y 2012. There is not a direct correlation between the circumstances, but they are, to some extent, similar: we are confined, deprived, separated from friends and family and detained indefinitely.
She hopes that her analysis of the prisoners’ dreams can help sort out the nightmares we are facing today.
Among the most common themes were something that the prisoners were missing: “Food, food, food,” she says. She tells the paper that she anticipates an uptick in food dreams as virus confinement continues.
The many unknowns and uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 have prompted other experts to examine what they call “pandemic dreams.” Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, a leader in sleep health care and the chief medical officer of Nox Health, says that the trauma of COVID-19 activates “the sleep-related memory system.”
“Nightmares are one of the potential results of this activity. This is also one of the principle features of PTSD,” he says.
To avoid having nightmares disturb your sleep, Dr. Barrett suggests a highly successful technique called “dream incubation, which helps you program your dreams and regain control from your runaway subconscious“.
Choose a category you like, such as flying, and remind yourself about it before you fall asleep.
“If you are a good visualizer, imagine yourself soaring aloft,” she says. “If images do not come easily to you, place a photo or other objects related to the topic on your nightstand to view as the last thing before turning off your light,” she says.
Then, repeat your intention as you drift off to sleep. The technique will not work all the time, the expert cautions, but is “much better than chance.”
She adds that even if you experience strange, vivid dreams, science has shown that these can be beneficial.
“There are certainly some biological things that R.E.M. sleep is doing, certain neurotransmitters are shut down and being restored,” Dr. Barrett says. “There is some theory that simply activating the brain every 90 mins may be good for it in some way.”
Have a healthy day, do not be Afraid!