Pandemic slumber: How Covid-19 has 'infected' dreams as well

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • A common way for people to process emotions is through dreams
  • Scientist analysed how the coronavirus pandemic affected people's dreams
  • It was found that lockdown regulations greatly impacted dreams

Researchers have for long been concerned with how our dreams are influenced by our daily lives and experiences. Previous studies have shown that dreams help with the processing of memories and emotions experienced when we’re awake.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to many changes in people’s lives – we are more aware of hygiene and have laws enforcing physical distancing – which have had a direct impact on our emotional well-being.

Lockdown dreams

A newer study, building on existing evidence, aimed to discover the impact of challenges experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic on the dreams of people under lockdown.

Researchers of the study stated: “The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is a threat to human life around the globe and the source of a broad spectrum of mostly negative emotions, such as fear, anger, and sadness.”

The emotions elicited by the pandemic were useful for the purpose of the study. The scientist recruited 67 participants who submitted a total of 239 dream reports from before and during the lockdown period, and analysed these dreams.

Sweet dreams or pandemic nightmares?

One of the most significant findings of the study was the high prevalence of words relating to anger and sadness in dreams during the pandemic. There were also more words relating to cleanliness and contamination. 

The researchers wrote in their paper, that “these results corroborate the hypothesis that pandemic dreams reflect mental suffering, fear of contagion, and important changes in daily habits that directly impact socialisation”.

They went on to say that the results are representative of a collective traumatic experience.

Dreams of social distancing and handwashing

Interestingly, it was also found that concepts such as physical distancing and handwashing were on people's minds (as reflected in dreams) more than Covid-19 itself.

"Overall, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that dreams during the lockdown period reflect the waking challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the researchers said.

These results show the prevalence of mental suffering as a result of a pandemic, and indicate that psychological tools like dream analysis could be key in assisting individuals to overcome such challenges.

READ | The Covid-19 pandemic is causing anxious, upsetting dreams in many people, especially women

READ | Anxiety-related Google searches reached record high n US during early stages of pandemic

READ | An expert's guide to keeping bad dreams at bay

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.