How Covid-19 affects our dreams

Italian study finds people suffer disrupted sleep patterns but dream more often

A woman rests on her terrace during lockdown in Rome, Italy. Getty Images
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The Covid-19 pandemic has a direct effect on people’s sleep and dreams, a study has found.

People wake in the night more often, have a harder time falling asleep, have more dreams and are able to recall their dreams more often while in lockdown.

Many of the changes are linked to coping with the pandemic, the researchers from the Sapienza University of Rome said.

They also reported more lucid dreams, where the person is aware that they are dreaming and is able to gain some control over what is happening.

People also reported more dreams related to "being in crowded places" post-lockdown than during lockdown.

For the study, published in the Journal of Sleep Research, 90 adults in Italy recorded their dream experiences and completed a sleep-dream diary each morning. They did it for two separate weeks during May 2020, covering a period during lockdown in Italy, and when restrictions were eased.

"Our results ... confirmed that both sleep and dream measures showed critical differences between lockdown and post-lockdown periods," the authors wrote.

Subjects were asked to record their dreams in a sleep diary within 15 minutes of waking.

Almost half (46 per cent) showed low sleep quality during lockdown.

 

From the sample, 80 subjects reported at least one dream during the lockdown week, while 10 subjects did not report any dreams. During the post-lockdown week only 59 subjects reported at least one dream.

The most frequent dreams reported during lockdown and post-lockdown were about loved ones, crowded places and eating.

The authors said the relationship between traumatic events and dream-recall frequency confirmed the idea of pandemic as “collective trauma”.

They also said that the greater presence of lucid dreams during confinement could reflect the attempt to cope with the waking pandemic experience.

Regarding lucid dreams, they wrote: “This peculiar form of dreaming may provide an opportunity to increase self-control and emotional regulation in individuals experiencing adverse events. In these terms, the greater presence of lucid dreams during confinement could reflect the attempt to improve the coping ability in the waking state.”

Updated: July 21, 2021, 4:15 PM
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