We have been receiving numerous press enquiries over recent days, many of which remark on there being increased dream recall in the current pandemic situation. Here are some thoughts on this:
Dream recall might be increasing due to people spending longer asleep, and as a result having more REM sleep. This is the sleep stage from which most dreams are recalled, 80% of awakenings from REM sleep result in a dream being recalled. REM sleep predominates in the second half of the night, rather than the first half, and so extended sleep will consist of more REM sleep.
Lack of work schedules may be allowing individuals to wake up without an alarm clock. Such spontaneous awakenings are known to result in longer dreams, partly because an uninterrupted REM sleep period will on average be longer than an interrupted one.
Our dreams are more likely to incorporate memories from recent waking life that are emotional, rather than less emotional or neutral ones. Although some people in the lockdown may be bored and have uneventful days, the enforced family or social aspect of the lockdown may result in more emotional experiences, which are then incorporated into dreams. These more vivid dreams are themselves more memorable.
Dreams are usually forgotten quickly, and especially if one is distracted or busy on waking. During the lockdown more people will have time to recollect and memorise dreams that they wake up with.
Due to there being more unstructured time after waking, there will then be greater opportunities to share dreams with significant others. Our published work has shown that this can lead to greater understanding and empathy towards the life circumstances of the dreamer and towards the events and concerns of their recent emotional life.
Social and cultural changes might thus slowly occur, of more positive attitudes towards dreams and towards dream-sharing, and of greater empathy between people, as a result of more time being available for the consideration, appreciation, sharing and discussion of dreams.
We are aiming to encourage these positive changes through the discussion and painting of dreams online, during the coming months.