Perhaps, during the next week of quarantine, you noticed that you see strange, interesting or incredibly colorful dreams – or just faced with insomnia and sleep disturbances.
Both are signs of the stress that many people are currently experiencing at the same time.
We tell you how sleep and dream disturbances are associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and whether something can be done about it right now.
Stress and insomnia
The situation in which the world finds itself is unique to the majority of those living in it.
Novelty and fear of the unknown (not only in terms of health, but also, for example, work or the ability to pay for housing) can lead to anxiety, depression and, among other signs of stress, sleep disturbances.
Most often, this is insomnia – that is, difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking up, inability to sleep again, but there is also the opposite reaction – hypersomnia, when you want to sleep constantly.
Experts say this may be due to a “hit or run” reaction. Although the enemy is invisible without an electron microscope, and the main recommendation is to stay at home, stress-related processes make the body mobilize, and therefore stay awake.
Continuous reading of the news adds stress, and the luminous screen of the phone (if you read on it before going to bed) additionally sets up the nervous system so that the night has not yet arrived.
Many have also experienced a shift in their habitual regime, sometimes conscious. For example, if it is difficult to concentrate in the noise during the day, a person begins to work at night when loved ones go to bed.
This leads to a torn dream in the daytime, in the light and still the same annoying noise. The lack of physical activity and walking does not allow us to spend energy normally, and in combination with the fact that it is easy to start overeating from boredom, the body simply does not get tired enough.
In Google, the number of queries “why I see strange dreams”, “COVID-19 dreams”, “coronavirus dreams” has sharply increased.
During periods of stress, chemical processes in the brain can provoke, among other things, realistic dreams and nightmares – you may have already experienced this during a session at a university or in another tense situation.
Now many people are experiencing stress right away, and therefore unusual dreams are observed more and more often.
It is believed that dreams arise because the brain processes emotions and events. In a period of sleep with rapid eye movements (REM), something like “harvesting” occurs, when the brain classifies the memories for the past day and prepares them for long-term storage.
Given the background anxiety and tense memories (and they can be like that even if you do not leave home, but, for example, watch the news), the likelihood of strange and scary dreams increases.
Finally, we remember what we saw in a dream only if we woke up in time: if you still sleep for some time after the dream phase, in the morning you are unlikely to remember anything.
Insomnia, confused mode, noise lead to the fact that we often wake up – which means we remember what we saw. According to scientists from the Center for Neuroscience in French Lyon, people have become 35% more likely to remember their dreams.
Several groups of scientists, including in England, France and the USA, began to study the situation at once. The i dream of covid website has appeared, where everyone can share the content of their dreams (you can do this anonymously).
Italian scientists reported that most of the changes in dreams are expressed among health workers, those who live in the midst of outbreaks, and those whose loved ones are affected by COVID-19.
According to them, after the earthquake in the city of L’Aquila in 2009, the map of vivid dreams coincided with the map of seismic activity – that is, the higher the stress, the more noticeable the dreams changed.
True, the lack of impressions during the day can also be the cause of vivid dreams – it seems to make the brain look for deeper memories.
What can be done
Try to establish a mode
Now it’s difficult and everything contributes to chaos, but think of at least one rule for yourself – for example, go to bed no later than twelve – and try to observe it.
Move at least a little
We talked about the rules of nutrition and exercise in quarantine. Now is not the time to set records.
Your task is not to lose weight or even maintain activity at the same level (sitting at home it is unlikely to succeed), but to unload the psyche, stretch your body and get a little tired to sleep better.
Come up with a ritual to relax
Apply a mask, lie down with your eyes closed in a cool room, listen to music – whatever, just leave your phone, tablet and computer in another room.
Be careful with caffeine and alcohol
From boredom and a lost sense of time, it is easy to start drinking already in the afternoon or stop counting the drunk cups of coffee.
The lack of pleasant experiences makes us look for something tasty, including in the form of drinks. But caffeine and alcohol act on the nervous system, and now it would be nice to leave it alone.
Talk with your doctor about pharmacological assistance
Now many clinics provide the opportunity for online consultations, and if insomnia is seriously worried, it is worth discussing it with your doctor.
You may be prescribed, for example, melatonin, which helps to establish daily cycles, or a drug to reduce anxiety, which will also contribute to sound sleep.
Remember this is temporary
The quarantine will end, walks and sports will return, loved ones will disperse to schools and offices, and sleep will return.
Do not make disaster out of insomnia – better keep an interesting book by the bed.