Having weird dreams? You're not alone. Here's why

By  | 

NEW YORK (CBS) Countless Americans are reporting weird dreams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say that's not unusual in times of uncertainty, and the ability to remember them might actually have to do with getting more sleep. You may also even be able to positively influence those nighttime journeys.

Sleep experts say they've seen an uptick in vivid dreams during the coronavirus pandemic, and in the ability to recall them.

"Some of us, we're actually getting more sleep, and you have more dreams right before you awaken in the morning," said Dr. Carol Ash, a sleep specialist with RWJBarnabas Health.

Stay-at-home mom Stephanie Klein says she's never had more vivid dreams than the ones she's experienced over the last several weeks.

"They're not nightmares, but they more than once have left me drenched in sweat and having like a real physiological response," Klein said. "I've been able to write them down pretty accurately."

In a Harvard survey, more than 2,000 people described 5,000 COVID-19-related dreams in the last month. Harvard psychologist Dr. Deirdre Barrett is collecting those dreams. Barrett says she's seeing clusters of particular themes.

"There are a lot of these, 'Oh my God, I have it and maybe I'm gonna die.' And then there are a lot of dreams that have metaphors for the virus, every kind of bug attacking the dreamer," she said.

Barrett adds most Americans are having general anxiety dreams, while health care workers are experiencing more post-traumatic type nightmares.

Experts say one function of dreams is to help us emotionally process what we experience in our waking hours. And some say there are actually ways to influence what happens when you close your eyes.

"Just as you fall asleep you can imagine whatever it is you want to dream about very vividly," Barrett said. "And that greatly increases the odds you'll have the dream you're requesting."

Sleep experts also suggest simple ways to set yourself up for good shut-eye:

-Keep the same wake-up and bedtime
-Shut off electronics an hour before bed
-Get outside
-Reduce your sugar and carb intake

Barrett recommends sharing your dreams as a way to reach out and connect while we're all apart.