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Dreaming: The Coronavirus Effect

“To sleep perchance to dream”.  Some of you will recognize that phrase from the famous soliloquy of William Shakespeare’s play HamletToday, however, I use it as an introduction to a strange phenomenon taking place in many of our bedrooms at night.  Now before your imagination takes you too far astray, I’m talking about the dreams that many people are having in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.  If you’re like a lot of people during this lockdown your dreams have become, well, let’s just say a lot more interesting.   More specifically experts have said that during this current crisis many people’s dreams have become much more vivid, memorable, disturbing and unpleasant.  However, before I poke my toe into that particular dream pool, let me begin by telling you what brought this all to mind.

During our regular morning breakfast chats, my wife and I realized that our dreams have taken a rather dramatic and noticeable turn as of late.  In general, they have recently become a bit more of an unsettling and anxiety packed roller coaster ride.  Feeling that we weren’t alone, I did a simple online search and discovered that we had plenty of company and that a lot of other individuals and professionals were talking about this as well.  What follows is a sampling of the discussion that I discovered online.

  • If we feel some degree of stress about the pandemic, or about work or family, then it’s normal for those types of themes to appear in our dream content.   Both my wife and I have had dreams that involve social distancing.”  Dylan Selterman -University of Maryland’s DREAM Lab.
  • This is global. I’m working currently in the U.S., Australia, India, China, and Japan. Story is the same everywhere. People are dreaming up a storm.”  Robert Bosnak, psychoanalyst and past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
  • Dreams typically reflect our emotional state. Many of us are understandably feeling uncertain and anxious right now, so it really isn’t surprising that our dreams reflect that intense fear”. Theresa Cheung, author of The Dream Dictionary from A to Z.

I should add that I have more than just a passive interest in this subject and have always had a serious curiosity about dreaming.  As a matter of fact, dreaming was the area of specialty that I chose for my doctoral comprehensive exams.  In the past I have also conducted dream workshops and did a lot of dream therapy with people in my earlier days as a practicing psychotherapist.  I’m a firm believer that you can tell a lot about what’s going on in a person’s life by examining the mood and content of their dreams.  The truth is that this life interrupting COVID-19 scenario has proven to be more than just a nightmare for many of our daily lives, jobs and businesses.  For a great many people, it has also hijacked their sleep and infected the mood and content of their dreams.  So, if this sounds like you, rest assured that you are not alone and also know that this should all diminish once the health threat has passed and our freedom of movement is restored.

The good news is that, as I type these very words, things are beginning to ease up.  Businesses are opening, beaches are again being occupied and the strict limitations put on our movement and how we live our daily lives are beginning to subside.  With this slow return to life as we once knew it, new energy and optimism will be breathed back into every nook and cranny of our society.   How nice it will be to one day feel a sense of calmness, normalcy and safety again.  And as that slowly begins to take shape, we should all eventually start to sleep better and experience less fearful and chaotic dreams as well.

I think one of the most valuable lessons learned here can be all summed up in a line from a famous song written and recorded by Joni Mitchell way back in 1970.  The song is called Big Yellow Taxi and the line from that song that comes mind goes as follows – Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.  How true is that today?  As a result of all that has happened to us during this coronavirus pandemic, I hope you all have learned to better appreciate those simple things in life that so often go unnoticed in our hectic daily lives.  With that said, I hope you all use what you have learned during this period to live happier and more content lives going forward.  So, as we all begin to engage the outside world again, may your life be happier and more satisfying in the days ahead and may your dreams return to a less intense and more whimsical projection of a much calmer life.

Wishing You Great Health,

Dr. John H. Sklare of The Inner Diet – “You Can’t Change Your Weight, Until You Change Your Mind.”

Download your own copy here: HealthWise Blog-Newsletter – Caronavirus Dreaming 2

Dr. Sklare is the originator of The Inner Diet Program and was a practicing Psychotherapist for many years. He partners with Nutritional Resources (d/b/a HealthWise- for the creation of intellectual content for weight loss practitioners and their patients.