Double Trouble: How our sleep and dreams are changing in the era of social distancing

Author: Pam Muller

It seems that the Covid-19 Pandemic is changing our dream life. People are reporting more dreams since we went into social distancing; and the dreams being reported are more vivid, strange and disturbing.

In the last few weeks major news outlets like the Washington Post, CNN, CNBC and National Geographic have all produced dream and sleep-related headlines. Even our local WSB-TV ran it’s own sleep and Covid-19 story on April 20th. But, why? What’s going on?

There are two main reasons that the sleep/dream topic is trending; disrupted sleep and a new normal.


Disrupted Sleep

First, our sleeping habits have changed.No matter what your normal was before, it is probably different now that so much of your daily life has changed. Some of us are sleeping in longer, making us fall asleep later the next evening; while others are experiencing periods of wakefulness throughout the night. I thought I was getting more sleep simply because my new schedule allowed me to sleep in, but lately I’ve developed insomnia (an inability to fall asleep) creating worry and dread about turning the lights out and hitting the hay at the end of every day.

Sleep is a complex process made up of several different stages. One stage, the R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) stage produces our most coherent dreams. When you don’t get a full night of uninterrupted sleep, it can throw off the sleep stage cycle that your body is used to. And if sleep is disturbed for more than a few nights, the body takes over to try and make sure you get the sleep stages that you’re missing the most. This may mean that you’re going into R.E.M. sleep sooner than normal and more often than normal because you’re not getting enough of it to stay healthy, resulting in more dreams that you remember upon waking.

A New Normal

The second reason everybody’s talking about dreams is that we have entered into a new reality where most of what we relied on to be available and certain, is now unavailable and uncertain. Dream *studies tell us that children have more nightmares than adults. This is because a child’s reality is always changing- childhood is a time of constant growth, uncertainty and a steady stream of new information. This pandemic has thrown us, temporarily, into a childhood of sorts- a time of many changes all at once, a level of uncertainty we’ve never encountered before, and a steady barrage of new information.

Nightmares are a way for us to make meaning out of strange, scary, uncertain and intense emotional experiences. Basically, right now dreams are working overtime to integrate all of the new, and very important information that we are taking in during the day. Even if your vivid dreams are not nightmare-ish, they are vivid because we are experiencing so many heightened intense emotions day in and day out. We have a lot to process psychologically, and so our dreams are producing more psychologically intense images and scenes.

So, what are we to do with all of these dreams? And how can we take care of ourselves at night? Here are a few suggestions.

Prioritize sleep and napping

Food, water, shelter, & sleep are at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The next level of needs after these includes safety. That means sleep is a basic human need for survival; more basic than a sense of safety. Give your body a chance to make up for lost sleep by prioritizing naps and bedtime. Make an intentionally quiet environment that encourages rest, and leave your phone in another room.

Give thanks for sleep when it comes. Worrying about not getting enough sleep is a big contributor to not getting enough sleep! When you find yourself lying wide awake in bed worrying about lack of sleep, repeat this mantra, “My body knows what it needs from this night. I am getting the perfect amount of sleep I need.” If it’s 3 hours of sleep, consider that maybe just this once your body only needs 3 hours. Let go of the notion that you’re not getting enough. The idea of enough sleep is subjective; your body knows what she needs. Give thanks for sleep whenever it comes.

Set a new sleep routine. Change your routine to suit your current situation. Whatever that is, your body has an amazing ability to adjust to it so long as it is consistent. Bed at 8pm? Up at 3am? Back to bed until 9am? Great! Just make it a routine, and your sleep will return to its normal sleep stage cycling.

Collect your dreams for later. Use a journal to write down your dreams, they’ll act as a diary of your Covid-19 era experience. You may think that as a dream interpreter, I’m going to suggest you work your dreams; but actually the wisdom and insight that comes from your dreams will not expire. You can save them until a safer time to invest in learning what they mean.


Pam Muller (Sweet Georgia Pam) is a trained spiritual director, author, and dream expert with a professional background in education. She teaches dream interpretation techniques and soul work skills to sensitive, spiritual seekers who want to know themselves and their higher power more intimately. Through dreams, she can help people strengthen their emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Visit Pam's website ( where you can find tons of helpful information including a vlog of educational videos like "How to Help Your Child go Back to Sleep After a Nightmare".

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