Dealing With Nightmares During the Coronavirus Outbreak

With all of the fears and anxieties caused by COVID-19, now more than ever your children could be experiencing nightmares. Your kids could be having specific bad dreams about themselves, you, or other family members coming down with the virus, or just increased nightmares about other “monsters” and such, which could be spawned by the increased tension and anxiety that is now in the home.

Either way, there is a good chance that as the coronavirus lockdown continues, your kids are experiencing bad dreams as well as otherwise disrupted sleep patterns. As far as the nightmares go, this could be what one UCLA clinical psychologist refers to as “dream incorporation.”

This is where a stimulus we encounter in our day-to-day lives weaves its way into our dreams. This is a concept scientists have studied for many years when it comes to how dreams and memory are connected. Both very short-term memories (known as day-residue), and slightly longer-term memories (from a period of about a week), often present themselves in our dreams.

So your best defense against this is to try to limit your child’s exposure to the news about COVID-19, particular the daily “death counts.” If you are experiencing job loss or financial difficulties because of the outbreak, try very hard not to discuss those problems in front of your kids. Instead let them know, that no matter what, everything will be ok. There is no danger of you losing your home, or daddy or mommy never working again, or anything like that.

At bedtime it is super important to try to make sure that your child’s routine is as soothing and relaxing as possible. Always make sure that your bedtime activity includes a big hug and a kiss.

But what to do about the dreams they may already be having? What should you do if you child wakes up screaming or crying from a COVID-19 related bad dream?

The experts suggest you treat it as you would any other nightmare. Start by reassuring him or her that it was “only a dream.” If the nightmare involved mom, dad, or any family member being hospitalized or dying from the disease, show them that everyone is here, healthy and safe at home. Then assure them you and dad are very smart, and are doing everything possible to make sure everyone is safe.

It’s Not Just Kids

As you may know personally, it’s not just kids losing sleep and having bad dreams since the corona crisis began. Adults are filled with fear and anxiety over financial difficulties and other problems created by the virus outbreak. Filled with such dread, it is no wonder that many people are reporting dealing with bouts of insomnia. Since mid-march, “insomnia” has been Google’s most searched word.

This is simply how our bodies are wired to work. When we are living in a potentially dangerous situation, or brains “know” that being caught napping, could literally mean death. The pandemic is an invisible threat, one that we can’t fight or run away from like we would from a sabre-tooth tiger, but it still puts our bodies on high alert.

So, the brain rewires your sleep pattern to sleep only enough as you need, so you are awake most of the night to face danger. The experts say this is particularly true of male brains, which are hardwired to protect the family. I know of many men, my husband included, who ever since this began, wake up at 3AM, and then find it almost impossible to fall back to sleep. According to sleep experts, that is the limbic area of the brain activating their “stay awake or die” response.

So, again, for adults as in kids, the best way to restore normal sleep patterns and avoid COVID-19 nightmares is to reduce the anxieties related to it.

Try not watching the news just before bedtime. Instead do some stress reduction techniques such as yogi, meditation, or deep breathing – making love is a good one!

Do not use alcohol to try to put you to sleep. Avoid the use of phones or computers right before bed, and try not to stay up later than you normally would, simply because you may not have to get up to and go into the office as usual.

Good luck, stay safe, wash your hands, do not touch your face – and STAY HOME!

We are all in this together!

 

Have you been having trouble sleeping since the coronavirus outbreak began? What are you trying to do about it? Please use the comments below.

 

 

About Cynthia Lechan-Goodman

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