Pandemic Infects Dreams

pandemic infects dreams

Dealing with a global pandemic has brought similar fears and worries into the consciousness of people worldwide — and into their dreams.

Across the world, people are dreaming more vividly and working through feelings of loss of control and fear of the virus itself, according to an April 28 Associated Press story by Gillian Flaccus.

As of the end of April, Deirdre Barrett, a Harvard University professor who is studying COVID-19 dreams, had collected 6,000 dream samples from about 2,400 people. She found that the psychological toll of the pandemic on health care workers is similar to those of combat veterans and 9/11 responders.

Some of the nightmare themes include being in a safe place that is suddenly overtaken by the virus or something else invisible, the article said.

According to Barrett, many people dream of being sick with the coronavirus or being enveloped in a swarm of bugs, slithering worms, witches or grasshoppers with fangs — all stand-ins for the disease. Or the dreams take a different bent with the dreamer finding herself in a crowded space without a mask or unable to keep far enough away from people. 

Some have more pleasant dreams about things that used to be routine — going to birthday parties, getting haircuts, giving a hug.

“I guess it’s a bit of shared community, but it’s also really sad that we’re all missing things,” said Lauren Nickols, an avid reader from Ohio who dreamed of her dresser piled with books, even though, in reality, her book supply was running low. “It really shows you all the things you do without realizing it. And now that you can’t, it’s a shock to the system.”

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