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Ronald Reagan pulled up to the curb in a sleek black town car, rolled down his tinted window, and beckoned for Lance Weller, author of the novel Wildernessto him. The long-dead president escorted Weller to a comic book shop stocked with every title Weller had ever wanted, but before he could make a purchase, Reagan swiped his wallet and skipped out the door. Of course, Weller was dreaming. He is one of many people around Weird and unusual seeks same world—including more than featured in just one study—who say they are experiencing a new phenomenon: coronavirus pandemic dreams.
Bizarre dreams laden with symbolism allow some dreamers to overcome intense memories or everyday psychological stressors within the Weird and unusual seeks same of their subconscious. Nightmares, on the other hand, can be warning s of anxieties that we might not otherwise perceive in our waking lives. During our dream states, stress sends the brain on a trip. The neurobiological als and reactions that produce dreams are similar to those triggered by psychedelic drugs, according to McNamara. Psychedelics activate nerve receptors called serotonin 5-HT2A, which then turn off a part of the brain called the dorsal prefrontal cortex.
Living through the coronavirus pandemic might be changing that due to heightened isolation and stress, influencing the content of dreams and allowing some dreamers to remember more of them. For one, anxiety and lack of activity decrease sleep quality. Frequent awakenings, also called parasomnias, are associated with increased dream recall.
According to an ongoing study the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France initiated in March, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a 35 percent increase in dream recall among participants, with respondents reporting 15 percent more negative dreams than usual. A different study promoted by Associazione Italiana di Medicina del Sonno the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine is analyzing the dreams of Italians confined during the outbreak.
Many of the subjects are experiencing nightmares and parasomnias in line with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Multiple studies have shown that our waking activities create a slide reel of memories that influence the content of our dreams. Emotions carried over from the day can influence what we dream about and how we feel about it within the dream itself.
Reducing or restricting sources of everyday memories—by being stuck alone in quarantine— may limit the content of dreams or cause the subconscious to reach for deeper memories. Deirdre Barrettassistant professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of The Committee of Sleephas collected and analyzed dreams from the survivors of traumatic events, including the September 11 World Trade Center Attacks.
Barrett has found that dreams in which people process traumas tend to follow two patterns: They either directly reference or re-enact a version of the traumatic event, or the dreams are fantastical, with symbolic elements standing in for the trauma. In another set of dreams Barrett collected, participants replaced fear of the virus with a metaphoric element, such as bugs, zombies, natural disasters, shadowy figures, monsters, or mass shooters.
For all their variety, the one thing many pandemic dreams have in common is how weird they seem to participants in the studies.
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