New research out of Trent University that has caught international media attention shows that while many Canadians say there weren’t anxious about COVID-19 before the lockdown, their dreams suggest otherwise.
“Pre-lockdown dreams are parallel to the dreams of people who are highly anxious,” says Dr. Teresa L. DeCicco, a Trent Psychology professor who specializes in dreaming and dream therapy. “The dreams were COVID specific in that food, grocery store lineups, and the body part of the ‘head’ were prevalent. Since the virus affects the head with fever, temperature-taking and coughing, these were all part of the anxiety-provoking imagery in these dreams.”
Trent has been a leading institution for both sleep and dream research for many years and is home to an active Sleep and Dream Lab where top researchers study many areas of dreaming including the dreams of soldiers returning home from war and dreams of recovering addicts.
This COVID-19 research project, which was covered by the New York Times, MedPage Today and Insider, started with Professor DeCicco’s student Cassidy MacKay who had been collecting data for her honours thesis in January and February when the project was interrupted due to the lockdown.
Pre-lockdown dreams provide ‘valuable data’
“I realized we had captured dreams prior to the lockdown and prior to the virus being widespread in Canada, which was very valuable data,” Prof. DeCicco says. “The question was: How were people feeling about the virus in Canada during that time? Since dreams reveal what we think, feel and experience in waking day, what insight could the dreams give us in those early days?”
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the author of “Pandemic Dreams” continues to publicize the Trent study across the world. “She feels it’s a very important contributor to this early work of the virus,” Prof. DeCicco says.
Prof. DeCicco is now collaborating with a research team in Naples, Italy to examine the effects of the pandemic’s second wave on the dreaming mind and the role the virus plays in people’s emotional lives.
Learn more about Trent Psychology, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs.