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Study Finds Intense Dreams May Be Linked to Quarantine

Photo illustration by Kay Scanlon / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images


By: Matthew Zemba

People are reporting strange dreams recently. According to the LA Times, many people have taken to social media reporting their vivid dreams while in quarantine.

Deirdre Leigh Barrett, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard, recently conducted a survey on people’s dreams. Barrett found that many people are dreaming about the Coronavirus itself, with some experiencing wilder dreams than others. According to Barrett, doctors and nurses are having the most intense nightmares.

Why are we remembering our dreams better? It could be because we’re all getting more sleep than usual. Barrett said, “Dream recall is very correlated with how many hours of sleep you get, and most of America runs around pretty sleep-deprived.” If you are catching up on sleep now, Barrett says you may experience more intense dreams.

Psychologist Rubin Naiman, clinical assistant professor and specialist at the University of Arizona, weighed in on the situation. “When waking life is more vivid, so is dream life” he said. Naiman says when something out of the ordinary happens, like the COVID-19 pandemic, our brains could process our experience through dreams.

Naiman made a comparison to how our gut picks whether food is useful or wasteful. Our brain works in a similar way. Whenever we observe something normal, we don’t need to “digest” it. But when something unusual happens, like the coronavirus, our brains might process the experiences through our dreams.

People may also be dreaming about normal routines they miss during quarantine. Barrett noticed that there was more food content in people’s dreams than any other survey she’d seen, and she explained that some of the dreams involved foods they aren’t currently able to have in quarantine.

Many experts recommend keeping a dream journal to remember and learn from our dreams. Naiman hopes that the Coronavirus pandemic will show everyone the importance of dreaming, saying “dreaming is a reflection of healing.”

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