Research: Covid-19 Changed Our Dreams — Especially for Women — With Long-Term Implications
What’s Going On
A CNN article published last week featured a 2020 study by psychologist Deirdre Barrett, in which she analyzes the dreams from 2,888 participants in the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She found that everyone experienced heightened states of “negative emotions” and observations, but female participants bore the brunt of the emotional impact, as relayed in their dreams.
Specifically, women dreamed more about anxiety, sadness, anger, health concerns, death, and “references to biological processes” than men.
Barrett hypothesizes that these dreams revealed the higher burden of the pandemic carried specifically by mothers, as the ones primarily sacrificing their jobs to care for children as schools shut down or acting as primary breadwinners in single-parent households.
Further, in her interview with CNN, Barrett suggests that even post-pandemic, the impact of the group trauma may lead to continued upset dreams and even PTSD:
[…] some people will continue to struggle and possibly develop long-term trauma dreams, such as people that are most directly affected by the event and suffered severe trauma. That group also includes people who already have anxiety disorders and people who have suffered some earlier trauma in their history.
[…] I would say it’s going to be people who had the most direct experience with death and dying, those who are physiologically vulnerable to anxiety, stress and trauma, and those who have had prior trauma who are likely to have the longest struggle with nightmares.
Why This Matters
Are your patients reporting trouble sleeping due to bad dreams?
Are you having trouble sleeping for Covid-related nightmares?
No one truly understands what dreams are and why we have them, but research suggests that it may be our brains trying to grapple with problems we push to the side in the daytime — even if they’re just peripheral.
It doesn’t matter if it’s “irrational” to still be scared of the pandemic, even if you’re vaccinated.
Covid-19 was a group trauma of historic proportions, and it’s okay if you — if we — don’t automatically spring back to normal now that many restrictions have been lifted.
Consider actively addressing your or your patients’ suppressed concerns spilling out into dreams — either privately or professionally — so they don’t become a more long-term problem.