We interviewed a dream analyst to get some answers about quarantine dreams.

By Elizabeth Rhodes
Updated July 14, 2020
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If you’ve had especially intense and vivid dreams recently, you’re not alone. People across the country have reported experiencing wild, colorful dreams since they’ve been locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I personally can’t remember the last time I’ve had such consistently crazy dreams: Every morning, I wake up completely confused and surprised by the bizarre things that I dreamed the night before.

To understand why we’re having such vivid dreams, Travel + Leisure interviewed dream analyst Jane Teresa Anderson. Anderson, who has been researching dreams since 1992, authored six books about dreams and dreaming and has hosted a podcast series, The Dream Show With Jane Teresa Anderson, since 2009. With her expert insight, we can understand why we’re having such vivid dreams during the coronavirus quarantine and what they really mean.

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Travel + Leisure: Why are people having more vivid or intense dreams right now?

Jane Teresa Anderson: “We all dream, whether or not we remember them, and right now, more people are reporting more vivid or intense dreams...Our dreams are the result of our brain and mind processing our conscious and unconscious experiences of the last one to two days, and then comparing these to similar past experiences. It's all in an effort to update our mindset. When there's a lot of intense emotion to process — especially fear — our dreams tend to be more vivid...The majority of us are processing uncertainty and fear, and a lot of stress. When we feel fear or stress during a dream, our brain and glands release fear and stress hormones into the body, so we experience real physiological fear or stress. This jolt to the body can wake us up suddenly, remembering the vivid and intense dream....Tossing and turning during the night due to anxiety can mean we recall more dreams, too.

Another factor is that people isolating at home may be sleeping in more, not having to jump out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, and this often leads to more dreaming time and more remembered dreams. Our dreams, once interpreted, help us understand our mindset and why we each process our experiences in the way that we do. This then enables us to see what holds us back from handling our experiences in more positive ways for more positive outcomes in life.”

Is it common to have vivid dreams during other stressful or uncertain periods in your life?

“Yes. In a way, this is good because these dreams grab our attention, whether it is because we want to stop them or because we want to understand them. Interpreting your dreams can help you navigate the stressful or uncertain periods and find solid direction. (Interpreting dreams is not something you do with a dream dictionary. Dream dictionaries are misleading. There are tools and techniques you can use — if you learn them from reputable sources — to interpret your dreams.)”

Is there a certain theme that many people are experiencing in their dreams right now?

“Many people are dreaming themes of being trapped or stuck, reflecting their physical, mental, and emotional experiences of feeling stuck or confined during the pandemic. Other common themes include dreams of feeling out of control (something many people feel during uncertain times), and dreams of bugs and insects (possibly reflecting our individual pictures of the virus or of the irritating 'bugging' situations we are experiencing).”

What does it mean if you’re sick or you die in a dream?

“You can't take a dream dictionary approach, as every dream is unique and personal to the dreamer. One possibility is that these dreams are literally processing fears of being sick and dying, but generally dreams are more symbolic. Dreams of death often reflect what we feel or fear is ending in our lives. During periods of change (like now) we are all experiencing 'death' of the old ways, and preparing for 'birth' of the new. Death dreams, once understood, can be very positive, helping us to grow into change or alerting us to what we might be prematurely 'killing off' in life.”

Editor's Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.