How our Dreams Changed During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Effects and Correlates of Dream Recall Frequency - a Multinational Study on 19,355 Adults

Eirin Fränkl, Serena Scarpelli, Michael R. Nadorff, Bjorn Bjorvatn, Courtney J Bolstad, Ngan Yin Chan, Frances Chung, Yves Dauvilliers, Colin A. Espie, Yuichi Inoue, Damien Leger, Tainá Macêdo , Kentaro Matsui, Ilona Merikanto, Charles M. Morin, Sergio Mota-Rolim, Markku Partinen, Thomas Penzel, Giuseppe Plazzi, Mariusz SieminskiYun Kwok Wing, Luigi De Gennaro, Brigitte Holzinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Many have reported odd dreams during the pandemic. Given that dreams are associated with mental health, understanding these changes could provide crucial information about wellbeing during the pandemic. This study explored associations between COVID-19 and dream recall frequency (DRF), and related social, health, and mental health factors. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional web survey of 19,355 individuals in 14 countries from May to July 2020. We collected data on COVID-19, mental health, sleep and DRF during the pandemic. We performed McNemar Tests to compare low (<3 nights per week) and high DRF (≥3 nights per week) before and during COVID-19 and to evaluate changes in sleep variables segmented by DRF. Chi-square tests were conducted to compare characteristics between low and high DRF. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine associations between various independent variables and DRF. Results: Reports of high DRF during the pandemic were higher than before the pandemic (P<0.001). Female gender (aOR=1.25, 95% CI 1.10-1.41), nightmares (aOR=4.22, 95% CI 3.45-5.17), sleep talking (aOR= 2.36, 1.73-3.23), sleep maintenance problems (aOR=1.34, 95% CI 1.15-1.56), symptoms of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD; aOR=1.24, 95% CI 1.09-1.41) and repeated disturbing thoughts (posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms) were associated with high DRF. Age group 55-64 years (aOR=0.69, 95% CI 0.58-0.83) reported less high DRF than younger participants. Unadjusted OR showed associations between depression, anxiety, and DRF; however, in adjusted regression depression (aOR= 0.71, 0.59-0.86) and anxiety (aOR=0.79, 95% CI 0.66-0.94) were negatively associated with high DRF. Conclusion and relevance: DRF was higher than pre-pandemic levels across four continents. DRF was associated with gender and parasomnias like nightmares and RBD symptoms, sleep maintenance problems, PTSD symptoms and negatively associated with depression and anxiety. The results implicate that COVID-19 is reflected in our dreams as an expression of the emotional intensity of the pandemic. Keywords: collective threat; mental health; parasomnia; sleep; sleep disorder.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature and Science of Sleep
Volume13
Pages (from-to)1573-1591
Number of pages19
ISSN1179-1608
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 3112 Neurosciences
  • 3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine

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