Can we use dreams to battle the virus?
Posted April 4, 2020
If you're anything like me, the fear and anxiety around the pandemic are spilling over into your dreams. We dream researchers have anecdotally noticed an uptick in nightmares across the world as people try to process the deluge of information assaulting us on all sides. Not surprisingly, fear is the overwhelming emotion fueling COVID-19 dreams. We typically integrate fear and other intense emotions via our REM sleep dreams, but when the fear or anxiety is too intense, the REM-sleep related integrative mechanisms fail and we get repetitive nightmares. You can sometimes help the integrative process by simply sharing your experiences and your dreams with others. I invite you to share your COVID-19-related dreams here.
Here is a short video on what other people are saying about their COVID-19 dreams and how to deal with them.
You can share your dreams anonymously and help scientists study COVID-19 dreams here.
There are two categories of COVID-19-related dreams that are particularly fascinating to me:
Dreams in asymptomatic carriers. One is disturbed dreaming in people who appear to be without infection but are in fact infected. We have long known that specific types of disturbed dreams may be the first manifestations of disease in people who otherwise appear fine. Many of these so-called sentinel dreams involve somatic (actual physical changes/pains) experiences that may be the first sign of impending illness. If sentinel dreams occur with COVID-19, then we may have an early indicator that the dreamer has been infected with COVID-19.
Theoretically, we could use that kind of information to target therapeutic interventions very early in the course of the illness. In addition, if a very strong association between these somatic dreams and COVID-19 infection could be established (and that is a very big if!) we could identify people who appear to be symptom-free (as they are not showing outward signs of the illness) but may actually be infected and then ask them to sequester themselves, and thus slow the spread of the disease.
"Prophetic" COVID-19 dreams. A lot of people are coming out of the woodwork claiming they predicted the COVID-19 pandemic. I am getting lots of anecdotal reports of people experiencing uncannily accurate dreams over a year ago concerning elements of the COVID-19 pandemic. The interesting thing here is we can document some of these as they were publicly recorded in some reliable way. (See here for an example.) There are now large online databases of dream journals. It should be a simple matter to comb these large databases to see if any recorded and dated dreams contain any content that would seem “prophetic" to unbiased judges.
What kinds of COVID-19 dreams have you been having?