Tuesday, August 9

The pandemic has caused apocalyptic nightmares | Digital Trends Spanish

We’re just a few days away from Halloween, a time when ghosts, monsters, masked killers and everything spooky that can make you jump out of control reign.

And while these are elements, mostly fictional, that we associate with fear (probably due to films of that genre), there is something terrifying that many people experience in real life: nightmares.

We understand a disturbing dream as a nightmare in which people feel discomfort, fear or anxiety, whether it be from dreaming of a fall, an accident, a death, a betrayal, etc., that is, any negative situation in general.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way we dream by influencing the content of nightmares, that’s what a recent study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

The researchers found that pandemic-related stress can lead to a greater likelihood of having nightmares about specific issues associated with it, such as separation from loved ones, confinement, or even more extreme issues such as war and apocalyptic scenarios.

The study used testimonials from 419 American adults, who completed an online survey on sleep and their experiences around COVID-19 between June and November 2020.

Respondents were asked several questions about the extent to which they felt the COVID-19 pandemic had increased their stress levels or affected their sleep.

They were also shown a list of topics and asked if they had experienced any nightmares related to them during the pandemic (such as being persecuted, claustrophobia, or separation from loved ones). Respondents also completed indicators of anxiety, depression, and the Mannheim Dream questionnaire.

The results revealed that there was an overall increase in stress and sleep disturbances during the pandemic: 86 percent of those surveyed said they experienced an increase in general stress, 84 percent felt an increase in family-related stress and 68 percent felt an increase in stress associated with media coverage of the pandemic.

Regarding sleep, 61 percent of those consulted said that it had worsened during the pandemic, 55 percent said that they woke up more frequently at night and 44 percent said that they had problems falling asleep since quarantine .


On the other hand, stress appeared to influence the content of respondents’ nightmares, with different sources of stress linked to specific nightmare themes, as found in the study.

Respondents who showed higher overall pandemic-related stress reported more likely to experience nightmares centered on powerlessness, anxiety, war, separation from loved ones, totalitarianism, illness, and apocalyptic scenarios.

Meanwhile, those who reported greater stress associated with the pandemic and family were more likely to experience nightmares about all of these issues (except for illness). However, they were also more likely to experience dreams about confinement, oppression, failure, and death.

Kathryn ER Kennedy, one of the study’s authors, Explain why this occurs: “There is strong evidence showing that sleep is a time to make sense of our daytime experiences, thus helping us regulate our emotions. Working from home, dealing with jobs or financial losses, and a public health crisis can manifest itself in the themes of our dreams at night. “

While the study focused on Americans, the results indicate that stress during the pandemic has sparked similar nightmare themes in the rest of the world. According to Kennedy, “Although the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unique to each individual in the United States, the sleep disorders and nightmare themes reported in this study are similar to what has been observed in other countries.” .

“This provides a greater understanding of the causes of negatively toned dreams during a global health crisis, as well as probably some of the more common fear responses, despite socio-political differences in various parts of the world,” he adds.

However, Kennedy and his team suggest that the sociopolitical climate in the United States throughout this time, including the presidential elections, may have caused uncertainty about the future, which would explain the increase in nightmares about topics such as totalitarianism, war and helplessness. For this reason, they affirm that it is difficult to distinguish which nightmares were generated by the pandemic and which were caused by other situations.


The authors have also explained that spending more time at home during confinements can potentially alter the circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle).

The absence of the typical light and social cues that people experience at regular times, combined with increased time spent in front of screens that emit blue light at home, may have disrupted this sleep clock, according to the researchers.

Finally, there was an increase in reports of nightmares during the pandemic, although this is not surprising, given the evidence of elevated levels of stress around the world and the crucial link between stress and sleep.

“We know that sleep is an important time for the brain to make sense of things, preparing us to better handle stressful situations. The more we prioritize sleep as a key component of total mind and body health, the better we can handle the repercussions of this pandemic and any future obstacles that arise, ”Kennedy says.

Some of the big changes people underwent during quarantine was ditching the alarm in the morning and sleeping until a little later, and according to Kennedy, that probably packs a punch in better managing pandemic-related stress. .

“Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (the time when most of these dreams and nightmares occur) tends to get more intense the closer we get to morning. If we sleep late without a morning alarm, and consequently have more dreams, we may find some benefit in that, ”says the researcher.

Despite the interesting results obtained from this research, the co-author says that future studies will be needed to further explore the psychological processes that connect stress, nightmares and sleep disorders.

In addition, it ensures that it is difficult to know how accurate these reports have been without the existing data on these people and their dream / nightmare behavior prior to the pandemic.

“More long-term studies of people and their dreams throughout their lives – and more important: periods of great change – would help us better understand how dreams and nightmares manifest in response to different life experiences. “Concludes Kennedy.

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