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Covid Healthline

How did our dreams change when COVID-19 lockdowns ended?

  • The coronavirus pandemic has affected our sleep quality and patterns, and our dreams can reflect this impact.
  • A study in Italy analyzed people’s dreams during and after lockdown to see if there were any changes.
  • In both periods, individuals reported disturbed sleep, negative emotions, and pandemic-related nightmares.
  • The researchers found that people had richer and more lucid dreams during lockdown but more dreams post-lockdown.
  • The study adds to existing research showing the link between emotionally intense life events, stress, and sleep.
Whether it’s a feeling of being trapped, overall frustration, anxiety, or living in an alternate reality, the coronavirus pandemic has awakened interesting and uncomfortable feelings in many. The recurring cycle of curfews, lockdowns, and reopenings have also become added burdens on mental health.
One of the ways the human body has tried to cope with this flood of overwhelming emotions and containment measures has been through dreams.
Many people who had almost nonexistent or rather dull dream worlds pre-pandemic started to report richer, longer and more frequent, bizarre, and vivid dreams.
Meanwhile, more individuals reported feeling negative emotions such as sadness, anger, and loneliness during sleep.
Researchers from Italy have investigated the impact of lockdown as a factor, and their findings appear in the Journal of Sleep ResearchTrusted Source.

Dreams and well-being

Dr. Serena Scarpelli and her team from the Sapienza University in Rome were observing an interesting trend on social media in 2020, one in which people were sharing reports of their dreams on these platforms, right from the beginning of the first lockdown.
In these reports, individuals claimed to have been experiencing more dreams, which were increasingly more bizarre and vivid. That was when the researchers decided to investigate this “pandemic dreams” phenomenon in a systematic way.
Dr. Scarpelli told Medical News Today that sleep quality and dream activity were important indices of a person’s well-being.
“Just think, for example, that the presence of nightmares is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We are seeing this in all the pandemic studies, and monitoring dream variables over time will certainly give us more information,” she said.
Recent studies published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep have also suggested isolation may influence psychological distress. However, it did not affect sleep quality in the symptoms researchers measured.

What did the study find?

The studyTrusted Source looked into 90 subjects aged 19-41 years, a majority of which were women, and asked them to fill out sleep-dream diaries in the morning and answer online surveys over 2 consecutive weeks.
The first week was while Italy was still in full lockdown, and the second was when its government eased restrictions.
Italy was the first country to confirm a coronavirus case outside of China, where it first emerged. The country saw infections rise in a matter of months, leaving its unprepared health system overwhelmed.
Italy went into a nationwide lockdown between March and May. Web surveysTrusted Source conducted during this period showed that over half of the population reported poorer sleep, more sleep disturbances, and taking hypnotic medication to remedy this.
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