Since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, people have been reporting that they’re remembering more vivid and disturbing dreams. According to the Lyon Neuroscience Centre’s research, our dream recall is up 35%. So what’s going on?
Because many of us are working from home, avoiding the morning commute right now, we might be sleeping in a bit longer. We know that the more sleep we have, the more dreaming we can achieve; we also understand that you’re more likely to remember the dream you have just before you wake up, especially if it’s troubling.
What types of COVID dreams are people having?
Everyone is different but COVID dreams appear to have some themes so far.
A radio presenter told me recently on air, that she’d had a dream where maggots were on her face. The following day, a journalist called me to say loads of people she’s speaking to are having dreams about creepy crawlies.
Pre-covid and depending on your hobbies (like fishing for example), a dream about maggots might be about someone taking the bait.
But in the COVID era, it’s also important to look at other metaphors. When we look at the language we use around insects, ie bugs this can align with the way we talk of a virus, e.g. you might say you “have a bug”. If you have an understandable fear and anxiety of catching coronavirus, then it makes sense you’d have a dream where insects are too close for comfort.
It might not be COVID related though. It could also be at the time of the dream, someone or something is “bugging” you.
On a much lighter note, insects like bees and butterflies are often seen as positive (for example around leadership, or transformation respectively), so again it helps to take the content of your dream into context with what’s happening in your life at the time – I always ask the questions “why this, and why now?” Keeping a dream diary can help you notice if these types of insects appear regularly, which can help you explore the meaning if it’s a recurring dream.
How you feel about the insect is also key: eg., were you scared, or were you irritated in the dream? Do you like that type of insect, or do they make you anxious? All of this is worth considering when exploring your own dream. (If you’ve been stung by a bee or other insect in real life for example, how you feel about that will matter too).
People may also be having dreams which align with the government messaging. Someone I spoke with recently said their hands were dirty in the dream and couldn’t get them clean. With so much messaging telling us we need to be washing our hands regularly, it makes sense this would manifest in a dream this way. Incidentally, pre-COVID a dream about hands is often about the work we do (and our ability to do it). For example, we would say someone may “need to get their hands dirty” if we think they’re not pulling their weight.
Whilst we are hearing so much about the impact of COVID-19 and daily death tolls around the world, it makes sense if the subject of our own mortality comes to the surface, alongside any worries about people we love. It’s natural then, to dream about our fear of death or something which represents that. People working in healthcare and particularly hospitals right now, are being faced with this reality on a daily basis. Worrying “am I doing enough?” can also play out in an anxiety dream like this. It’s important to engage in regular acts of self care and reassure yourself you’re doing all that you realistically can to help others.
Like any dream or nightmare, its worth talking about it with someone who will listen. Research from Swansea now supports that telling someone about the dream you have can help in many ways. It doesn’t have to be a professional exploration; a close friend or family member that you trust might help you make sense of it all.
If you are worried about your health and well-being, especially if it’s affecting your sleep, always speak to your doctor or healthcare team. Learning ways to manage anxiety, during the outbreak and beyond, can help too.
I talk about dreams, and offer a template for keeping a dream diary in my book Answers in the Dark.
Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021