By Rebecca Renner | National Geographic – Science
Researchers explain why withdrawal from our usual environments—due to social distancing—has left dreamers with a dearth of “inspiration.”
Ronald Reagan pulled up to the curb in a sleek black town car, rolled down his tinted window, and beckoned for Lance Weller, author of the novel Wilderness, to join him. The long-dead president escorted Weller to a comic book shop stocked with every title Weller had ever wanted, but before he could make a purchase, Reagan swiped his wallet and skipped out the door.
Of course, Weller was dreaming. He is one of many people around the world—including more than 600 featured in just one study—who say they are experiencing a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.
Science has long suggested that dream content and emotions are connected to wellbeing while we’re awake. Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the safety of their subconscious. Nightmares, on the other hand, can be warning signs of anxieties that we might not otherwise perceive in our waking lives.
With hundreds of millions of people sheltering at home during the coronavirus pandemic, some dream experts believe that withdrawal from our usual environments and daily stimuli has left dreamers with a dearth of “inspiration,” forcing our subconscious minds to draw more heavily on themes from our past. In Weller’s case, his long-time obsession with comics came together with his constant scrolling through political posts on Twitter to concoct a surreal scene that he interpreted as a commentary on the world’s economic anxieties.
At least five research teams at institutions across multiple countries are collecting examples such as Weller’s, and one of their findings so far is that pandemic dreams are being colored by stress, isolation, and changes in sleep patterns—a swirl of negative emotions that set them apart from typical dreaming.
“We normally use REM sleep and dreams to handle intense emotions, particularly negative emotions,” says Patrick McNamara, an associate professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine who is an expert in dreams. “Obviously, this pandemic is producing a lot of stress and anxiety.”
Read the article here: