(ORDO NEWS) — According to a study published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, people who have had COVID-19 tend to report having more nightmares than people who have not been infected with the virus.
Previous research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has coincided with changes in sleep and dream activity among healthy people. For example, a study published in 2021 found that pandemic-related stress was associated with a higher likelihood of having nightmares revolving around specific apocalyptic themes.
But Luigi De Gennaro, a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, and colleagues noted that dream activity in COVID-19 patients differs from dream activity in healthy people.
“We are beginning to understand some of the long-term effects of the virus, including physical, cognitive and mental changes,” the researchers said.
“Given these changes, it is very likely that there are marked differences in sleep and dreaming that subsequently lead to infection.
Importantly, nightmares have been associated with many forms of psychopathology, such as anxiety and depression, borderline personality disorder, suicidal behavior, and mortality, even when considering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and related disorders.
Thus, the development of nightmares is clinically significant.”
The data for the current study comes from the International COVID-19 Sleep Study (ICOSS), which collected information from thousands of people in Austria, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Jilin Province (China), Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Poland , United Kingdom. and the United States between May and July 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic. The sample included 544 participants who had COVID-19.
In the study, participants completed measurements of anxiety, depressive symptoms, stress, psychological well-being, insomnia, quality of life, and quality of health.
Participants also completed a questionnaire to assess sleep problems. Participants were asked to indicate the frequency of recall of dreams and nightmares during the pandemic and before the pandemic.
In the pre-pandemic period, there was no significant difference in dream or nightmare memories between participants who had COVID-19 and those who did not. However, during the pandemic, the frequency of nightmares was significantly higher in COVID-19 participants compared to controls.
The researchers also found that symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD tended to be higher in COVID-19 participants compared to controls.
Importantly, greater frequency of nightmares was associated with greater frequency of dream recall, increased PTSD symptoms, increased anxiety symptoms, increased insomnia symptoms, shorter sleep duration, and younger age. Higher severity of COVID-19 disease also predicted a greater frequency of nightmares.
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