Something called “pandemic dreams” is being blamed for keeping stressed-out Americans up at night during the coronavirus outbreak.
These dreams are described as vivid, weird and occasionally horrifying. Many involve fear of death, threats against loved ones and the anxiety associated with venturing out into an unfamiliar world of empty streets, closed stores and potentially infected people.
Descriptions of the dreams are being shared on Twitter via #pandemicdreams.
“In my dream, I called an Uber, but a hearse showed up instead,” Sarah Schachner posted.
“Last night I dreamed both my daughters again were children & locked in hotel room in a skyscraper by someone who wished them harm. In terror I snuck them out of there and I set them up in a secret tent in a little green park near the sea,” Dr. Elizabeth Sawin tweeted.
“I had a dream that I went grocery shopping, and the only thing I could find was a stick of butter. When I got out of the store, it fell out of my bag, and a lady stepped on it with a stiletto heel. Analyze that one!” challenged Lisa Devlin.
Health experts say these distressing dreams are not surprising. Sleeplessness and changes in sleep patterns are part of how frightened people are reacting during the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] may be stressful for people,” the CDC said. “Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.”
Too many changes
Stay-at-home orders are forcing millions to stay isolated for weeks, store shelves are empty because of hoarding and workers are being laid off from their jobs.
“The coronavirus pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of our waking lives — our routines, our job security, our hopes for the future,” reported an article posted on The Cut, a blog published by New York magazine. “And our nights are changing, too: our sleep can be fitful, our dreams darker — and, for many, unusually memorable.”
This is worrisome to health experts because lack of sleep makes us more vulnerable to illnesses, including the coronavirus.
“Scientific evidence is building that sleep has powerful effects on immune functioning,” according to a CDC report. “Studies show that sleep loss can affect different parts of the immune system, which can lead to the development of a wide variety of disorders. ... Sleep loss is also related to a higher risk for infection.”
The Sleep Foundation has issued some guidelines to help people sleep during the COVID-19 outbreak:
• Be specific about sleep. Set a wind-town time before bed, a sleep time and a wake-up time. The wind-down time can include “light reading, stretching and meditating along with preparations for bed, like putting on pajamas and brushing your teeth.”
• Incorporate routines to provide time cues during the day, including changing out of your pajamas, even if you aren’t going out.
• Reserve the bed for sleep, and make the bed in the morning so you are not tempted to lounge on it during the day.
• If you can’t get to sleep, “get out of bed and do something relaxing in very low light, and then head back to bed to try to fall asleep.”
• Don’t use electronic devices in bed or immediately before going to bed. “The blue light produced by electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and computers has been found to interfere with the body’s natural sleep-promoting processes,” the Sleep Foundation said.