A frequent guest of The Doctors, sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta tells CNN, "My patients have been coming in and telling me, 'I have vivid dreams, I remember my dreams, I have nightmares.' This is something that we've seen in other traumatic events that occur around the world and in our country. So the fact that we're having more nightmares during this pandemic doesn't surprise me."
Sleep specialist Michael Breus tells CNN that a combination of people sleeping in later (which allows more time for a deep stage of sleep called rapid eye movement, or REM) and the stress and anxiety of the events of the last year have caused many people to experience intense and vivid nightmares,
"When you're getting more REM during stressful times, you get more REM nightmares. We're calling this phenomenon 'quaradreaming,'" he says.
Some types of dreams the sleep specialists say their patients have experienced include dreams of locusts swarming, armies of cockroaches, grasshoppers with vampire fangs, natural disasters like tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires, also COVID-specific dream like people not wearing masks, dreams about getting coughed on, and being trapped somewhere.
As the pandemic improves and the world gets back to normal, these nightmares will hopefully improve for most, but in the meantime, the sleep experts suggest the following tips to sleep better:
Keep your bedroom and bed cool: The sleep experts tell CNN that too much warmth can lead to worse nightmares. Either lower the room's temperature or take off that extra blanket.
Could be medications be the issue?: Meds for health issues like blood pressure have been known to affect how people dream, along with some types of antihistamines, antidepressants, sleeping aids, and statins (Check with your doctor about this possible issue and before altering your meds).
Avoid staying up too late and be consistent with your sleep schedule the entire week: All the sleep experts stress that keeping a sleep routine (even on the weekends) will lead to better and more productive sleep, with hopefully fewer nightmares.
Prepare your mind for good dreams: According to CNN's sleep experts this is possible. To have a pleasant dream, try picturing a person, location, or event you find appealing and focus on it as you are falling asleep. Also, if you have a favorite reoccurring dream, try to replay it in your mind as you drift off.
Dealing with other sleep issues related to COVID? The Doctors have even more sleep tips to help get you through your restless nights.