The COVID-19 pandemic has made even sleep feel stressful. From vivid dreams and nightmares to increased levels of insomnia, many people are struggling with sleep right now, CNBC reports.
This makes sense, because “we are wired to stay awake in the face of danger,” Jennifer Martin, clinical psychologist and member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, tells CNBC Make It. “In that way, it’s normal to have struggles with sleep throughout all kinds of difficult situations.”
The challenge right now is that the threat of a global pandemic is not so “tangible,” Martin says. Often when people go through a stressful situation, their sleep improves when the problem resolves. But it’s not clear when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, and life will go back to normal.
The experiences that you have, the content that you consume and the visuals you interact with during the day absolutely can affect your dreams, Martin says. This is a concept called “dream incorporation,” and it happens when a stimulus you encounter in real life makes its way into your dreams.
“If you are spending two hours in front of on the news media, or you end up reading about COVID-19 before bed, it’s pretty likely that that’s going to come up in your dreams at night,” Martin says. On the flip side, if you’re engaged with something that’s more neutral or even pleasant, those themes are more likely to present in your dreams.