• The Financial District


Unwanted hugs, lost passports, closed borders, overcrowded spaces and death have been coming up again and again in people's dreams, according to a new study that shows how the pandemic is creeping into people's nightmares, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported late on October 3, 2020.

Hundreds of volunteers told their dreams to Helsinki University scientists during a Covid-19 lockdown earlier this year. Handshakes and hugs, in the context of the pandemic, have become the stuff of nightmares. Sleepers are experiencing them as an inappropriate violation of social distancing rules in their dreams, according to the researchers. "Usually, dreaming is a really private thing. But when the environment is changing so quickly in such a short time, many people seem to have shared associations," lead author and psychologist Anu-Katriina Pesonen told us.

Her team used an algorithm to group dream topics into categories and found that a third of these categories were clearly linked to the pandemic. The study that was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology also used sleep-pattern reports from 4,000 Finns. More than a quarter of them reported more frequent nightmares than before the pandemic, and around a third of them woke up more frequently during the night. However, more than half of the respondents slept longer than usual, partly because more people were working from home.

Scientists who were not involved in the study said that the Finnish results should not be viewed as generally valid. Austrian psychologist and dream expert Brigitte Holzinger cautioned that the Finnish nightmare figures seemed "very, very high," even though the overall results are in line with her own, still unpublished research into Covid-19 dreams.

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