What was your strangest life situation

Sleep in the pandemicStranger Everyday life, strange dreams

Search queries indicate that people are often dreaming strangely - at least in the USA. There are really enough reasons for this at the moment.

In the USA, the Google query "Why have I had strange dreams lately?" Quadrupled in the past few weeks, writes the New York Times. The conclusion is that there is a connection between bad dreams and the Covid-19 pandemic.

"At the moment everything is different - and often stressful."
Martin Sch├╝tz, Deutschlandfunk Nova

For most of us, Corona is an abstract threat that is difficult to visualize - but the effects of which at the same time completely change our everyday lives.

  • The streets are empty.
  • People keep their distance.
  • Apartments are often also jobs.
  • Some people are socially isolated.
  • Care for elderly relatives.

Our brain processes the current situation in life while we sleep. It is likely to fall back on well-known threat images: tsunami waves, monsters, war scenarios - all of this can then be visualized. This is a completely natural reaction, researchers at the University of Geneva discovered last year.

Our brain hardens itself, so to speak, in sleep: The feelings we experience while we are sleeping act as an exercise. This helps later, when we are awake, to deal with real fearful situations.

Our brain falls back on alternative images

During sleep, the brain sorts the experiences of the day so that it is receptive again. At the moment, many of us tend to deal mainly with negative news and experiences. What is important is stored in long-term memory, and what is unimportant is deleted. Neuroscientists assume that we tend not to remember a good dream after waking up, while a nightmare sometimes wakes us up and is therefore more present later.

The rules of our sleep

The fact that we can currently remember our dreams so well can also be due to another aspect. Deutschlandfunk-Nova reporter Rebekka Endler asked Christine Blume, sleep researcher at the Center for Chronobiology at the University of Basel, to explain our sleep in more detail.

Sleep consists of four to five sleep cycles: We start with a light sleep, then move on to deep sleep, which is particularly dominant at the beginning of the night. Then the dream sleep or REM phase begins, an abbreviation for Rapid Eye Movement. This is where our dreams are born.

"It always starts with light sleep. Then sleep becomes a little deeper. Then we go into deep sleep, which dominates sleep especially at the beginning of the night, and then we wake up briefly. Then we have such a short REM phase. "

During the night, the lengths of the individual sleep phases change. As the deep sleep phases get shorter, the REM phases get longer. This also automatically increases the number of dreams experienced, explains Christine Blume.

Stress increases the length of the dream phases

If there is also stress, as many of us are increasingly feeling due to the negative Corona news, this could lead to the REM phase lasting longer and the deep sleep phase being shorter than normal. That could leave us with the impression that we dream so much and so strangely, says Beate Ditzen, who heads the Institute for Medical Psychology at the University Hospital in Heidelberg.

"Because this REM sleep increases so much in stressful phases, we can remember our dreams and therefore also have the impression that we are dreaming so much and so strangely."

The stress that the corona situation triggers in us does not necessarily make us dream anymore, but makes us better recall what we have dreamed of when we wake up.