If you’ve been having bizarre dreams (and lots of them) ever since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, you’re not alone.
Dr. Claudia Aguirre, MD, neuroscientist, mind-body expert, and Women’s Health Advisory Board member, says that you can probably blame that on all the scary news you’ve been consuming lately.
“If you are on Twitter reading up on COVID-19 news every day, it’s fairly likely some of that will end up in your dreams,” says Dr. Aguirre. “This is called dream incorporation. And since there are a lot of unanswered questions about this novel coronavirus, chances are dreams will be more upsetting than not.”
Data also indicates that people have been sleeping more since the COVID-19 outbreak began. “A person who sleeps more is more likely to have longer and more vibrant dream periods,” Dr. Aguirre says.
Sleeping more isn’t a bad thing right now. “I’d like to think this is actually putting us at healthy eight-hour per night levels,” she explains. “Since a good third of Americans are sleep deprived, they may actually be getting their adequate levels now.”
But kids are having nightmares, too.
Children may also be re-living the negativity from the day in their dreams. “Yes, these are stressful times like no other,” says Dr. Aguirre. “Even if kids act totally normal, they are absorbing all of our energies from the day, so if they are bombarded with negativity, they can re-live it in a dream state.”
Parents can help them work through those scary dreams and come out stronger. “The interesting thing about nightmares is that they are not all bad,” says. Dr. Aguirre. “Yes, they are scary to live through but in a way, they can prepare our brains for a bad-case scenario.”
It’s all about the way you spin it, Dr. Aguirre says. “It’s kind of like strengthening our mental fortitude against stress,” she says. “Maybe we have to reframe a ‘scary dream’ to our kids so they understand their mind may be shaping them up to be stronger.”
You have some influence over your dreams.
Give yourself the same pep-talk you just gave your kid, and then take it a step further to set the stage for sweeter dreams. “While you may not be able to to control your dreams, you can control your mental state before you fall asleep,” says Dr. Aguirre.
These soothing sleep rituals might help, she says:
- Light a candle or diffuse an oil to get your brain into the habit that it is time to relax.
- Practice taking deep breaths in and out.
- Try listening to music or a sleep story.
Your dreams are usually some kind of reflection of your thoughts when you’re awake (whether you’re aware of them or not). Focusing or meditating on a more pleasant topic can help make your sleep less stressful.