Quarantine Dreams

I was running as fast as I could through a forest, dodging underbrush to the best of my ability. Something was chasing me, and I knew I couldn’t let it catch me because I didn’t want to die. Unfortunately, I tripped on a root and injured my leg. I tried to get up quickly and continue moving, but I wasn’t moving fast enough. The last thing I remember before waking up was an overwhelming sense of terror. 

I’m far from the only person having strange dreams during quarantine. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives and redefined our normal routines; many people have reported changes in their sleeping patterns. Throughout quarantine, people have reported having more vivid dreams than usual, whether about the pandemic or something else. The amount of sleep people have gotten has also changed as some have slept less than usual, while others have slept more. 

According to Dylan Selterman, a social psychologist at the University of Maryland, people are having anxiety dreams about the pandemic due to the stress everyone is facing. Jessica Payne, associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, believes that elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, could be playing a role in these bizarre quarantine dreams.

Stress dreams happen when your mind is trying to work out the solution to a problem or emotionally process what’s happening in your waking life. Uncertainty about the future and emotional upheaval during this pandemic has led people to actively reflect on their dreams, which makes them easier to recall. In fact, a website called I Dream of Covid, built by Erin Gravely, displays a collection of people’s dreams about the pandemic. 

Events that seem historically significant can make their way into our subconscious. An example of this can be seen in The Third Reich of Dreams, a book by Charlotte Beradt. Beradt collected dreams from people living in Nazi Germany, 75 of which are included in the book. According to her, these dreams were “conceived independently of their authors’ conscious will” as they were influenced by the fact that people were living under the Nazi dictatorship. Similarly, our collective experiences during this hugely influential pandemic are leading to a widespread phenomenon of strange dreams.

To understand the meaning of these dreams, Deirdre Barrett, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, recommends trying to define each character, setting, or action you see in a dream. Contextualizing the symbolic meaning of the elements of your dreams can help you realize where they’re coming from and/or what emotions you’re trying to process. According to Barrett, dream dictionaries with literal interpretations are unreliable, however, as dreams are unique to each person and interpretations of similar dreams will differ for each person.

A way to process these dreams and the emotions we’re going through is to keep a dream journal. Additionally, sharing your dreams with someone will also help as it will foster connections in this time of social distancing and isolation. This pandemic is truly an unpredictable time in our lives, but I hope understanding your weird dreams will help you gain more insight into yourself.