Experts say stress of pandemic linked to sleep loss, bizarre dreams

Experts say that the emotional and physical stress of living through the pandemic have triggered issues like insomnia and unusual dreams.

Michael Howell, associate professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota, said many people are struggling with sleep right now.

“We have billions of people who are all going through the same stress. We are all going through this worry about what’s happening to our world, to our economy, and to our health,” he said.

Howell said dreaming is your brain’s way of trying to make sense of the world around you and that feelings of anxiety and self-isolation – along with unusual sleeping patterns – can lead to more memorable and intense experiences.

“Your brain is trying to look back on the course of the day and say, ‘What is relevant here?’ and it takes the experiences that were stressful, that were emotionally charged and then it replays those in a way that your brain is trying to make sense.”

Across the country, reports of people experiencing vivid dreams are on the rise. At one point, #pandemicdreams was trending on social media, with dreams of natural disasters and bugs becoming common themes.

“One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to work on sleeping better. Even under these difficult circumstances you can keep working on sleeping better, and that’s going to help you handle the stress better,” Howell said.