Pandemic affecting people's dreams
For millions of people, sleep brings little relief from the COVID-19 pandemic since the virus seems to be infecting our dreams.
Experts say rarely have we seen such collective dreaming in human history. There are even websites and Instagram sites dedicated to coronavirus dreaming.
Researchers at the Leon Neuroscience Research Center found a 35% increase in dream recall and a 15% increase in negative dreams during COVID 19, and some common themes, like trying to escape from an invisible threat, insects or something scary coming at you and being unable to escape crowded spaces.
So, why are so many people having such strange dreams?
“We dream for a variety of reasons,” explained Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, a UW Health Psychologist. “We dream to process information, to integrate experiences, to work through distressing emotions, and there’s learning and growth that occurs. We’re being asked to live in unprecedented ways and as a result because there is heightened anxiety and stress that can show up in our dreams.”
Dr. Mirgain says we are also remembering our dreams more now.
Many people are also getting more sleep because they don’t have their morning commute, so they can wake up without their alarm clock. As a result, people are having more REM sleep, and dreaming more, but because people are often not waking up with the alarm clock they're better able to remember our dreams.
How can you quiet your dreams and get better sleep? Mirgain suggests the following:
- Keep a bedtime and wake time routine.
- Talk about your dreams
- Write about dreams in a journal.
- Use an active coping strategy to help alleviate stress
“If we find ourselves anxious about going to sleep, or our kids come to us feeling distressed about a dream that they had, one simple practice I like to teach people is the peace begins with me practice. It really empowers us to stay resilient and really helps kids and ourselves really regulate and learn emotional regulation,” Dr. Mirgain said. “It’s quite simply saying the phrase peace-begins-with-me. I like to use it in two different ways. The first is touching my fingers together and if I first touch the thumb and forefinger together and as I touch each finger with my thumb I repeat the phrase or mantra peace begins with me. It's a way of closing off some of those negative thoughts, getting those negative thoughts to completion.”
“The second way I use it is by tapping through the meridian specific points in the body-- it’s integrated calm," says Mirgain. "Acupuncture uses these points, but we can activate them with tapping and again we can say that phrase by tapping between the eyebrows, below the nose, on the chin and on the chest heart center. We can just say that phrase, peace begins with me while tapping. This is a great way to offer ourselves some touch and again when we do that peace begins with me it helps re regulate ourselves Great for adults also great for kids it’s something proactive they can do to work on emotion regulation during challenging times.”
“It’s so important to work on coping strategies and active ways. Even doing one thing a day can make a difference to lower that impact that stress is having on us.”