I spend a lot of time talking to you about the importance of good, quality sleep. And with both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu poised to give our immune systems a run for their money this winter, getting plenty of restorative sleep is more critical than ever.
Unfortunately, new research has revealed a troubling trend: Americans are struggling to achieve a peaceful night of shut eye in the midst of this pandemic.
Indeed, according to a handful of recent studies, the anxiety, stress, and worry of these strange times has started hijacking peoples’ dreams, too. And sadly, women appear to be suffering the worst of it…
Nightmares on the rise
Previous research has already established that major crises—like war, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks—tend to lead to an unsurprising uptick in upsetting dreams. And now, we know that pandemics are no different.
The American Psychological Association published four new studies in a recent issue of their journal Dreaming.
One analysis featured more than 3,000 American adults. And researchers discovered trends including heightened dream recall, more nightmares, and more pandemic-related dreams.
This was especially true for respondents most impacted by coronavirus—like people who had lost their jobs or gotten sick, for example. Both women and more educated people reported stronger effects on their dreaming, too.
A different, international study also looked at nearly 3,000 participants—and found that COVID-19 more negatively impacted women’s dreams. Researchers asked participants to recall their dreams, and then compared them to pre-pandemic responses.
As a whole, women had lower rates of positivity and higher levels of anxiety, sadness, and anger in their dreams—but that’s not to say men weren’t affected. They struggled with pandemic nightmares, too.
Plus, another study of more than 750 Italians revealed similar trends, with women suffering the worst COVID-19 dreams. While a small Canadian study of college students, who completed dream journals between February and March of this year, also showed significant signs of anxiety in reported dream imagery.
This trend is concerning for sure. But from a psychological perspective, it also makes perfect sense. Conventional scientific wisdom still holds that dreams align with our waking worries, and act as our brain’s nighttime outlet for this stress.
But it’s worth noting that nightmares and insomnia are also a key symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And while we used to think of PTSD as something that only affected war veterans and victims of violent crimes, we now know this condition can affect anyone.
And let’s face it: We’ve all suffered varying degrees of trauma as a result of the coronavirus pandemic… whether you’re mourning a lost loved one, a lost job, or simply the loss of everyday life as we once knew it.
Now, why women seem to be bearing the brunt of this burden is anyone’s guess. But researchers suggest it might be because they’re also taking on more of the caregiving, job loss, and other practical hardships linked with this pandemic.
Whatever the case, one thing is clear: It’s time to start talking frankly about the very real worries we’re dealing with every day. And to reach out for help if you need it.
You can start by reading “The deadly heartbreak of grief”—featured in the June 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives. It was months ahead of the COVID-19 crisis, but this article covers everything you need to know about the impact that personal loss can have on your health—including how to control the damage before it takes hold. (Not yet a subscriber? Consider signing up today.)
And continue aiming to get seven to nine hours of good, quality shuteye each night. If this is challenging for you, then I encourage you to check out my Perfect Sleep Protocol. This innovative, online learning tool outlines a simple, drug-free plan for enjoying quality sleep for life. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!
“COVID-19 spurs anxious, upsetting dreams: Women especially affected, studies show.” Science Daily. 09/25/2020. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200925113323.htm)