Teeth falling out in the sink, running through a dark forest, getting lost in a shopping centre with that coworker you hated years ago, exes coming to your door asking for the bowl you borrowed, the dreaded Leaving Cert dream.
If our days in lockdown were defined by sourdough and Marie Kondoing our houses, our nights were marked by intensely vivid – and often disturbing – dreams. The stress and upheaval of Covid-19 left its mark on our subconsciouses and now a team of researchers want to know why.
A new study on how the outbreak of the virus has influenced people's dreams is being developed by a cross-disciplinary team of academics from Australia, the UK and Finland. The researchers come from the University of Cambridge in England, Monash University in Australia and Finland's University of Turku.
"People seem to be reporting weird dreams, but also generally they seem to be reporting that they're dreaming more … and unfortunately often having more negatively toned dreams and nightmares. So that was part of it", said Dr. Jennifer Windt, a senior research fellow in philosophy at Monash University as quoted in The Guardian.
The "Covid on Mind" study will see participants – all kept anonymous – fill out a wellbeing questionnaire, detailing their feelings about Covid generally and how it's been impacting on their mental state. As well as this, they will keep a dream log for two weeks, as well as carry out a "daily mind-wandering task".
The research team includes cognitive neuroscientists, psychologists and sleep and dream researchers.
As anyone who's sweated buckets the night before an exam, driving test or big event will know, nightmares are usually linked to your feelings of stress and anxious in waking life, so it's no wonder more of us are experiencing such unusual dreams.
What's baffling to most people, however, is the bizarre content of the dreams and their often frightening realism. "Dream bizarreness", the technical term Windt uses for this, will be a focus in the study, as well as the negative aspects of the dreams and how the dreamers interact with others in their dreams.
But aside from telling your friend your weird dream over WhatsApp, what defines a "bizarre" dream? It turns out there's a set list of criteria.
As part of the study, independent raters will read through dream reports and score them using established criteria, paying close attention to "emotional terms" and "social content". Everything but the dream content is discounted, so the reading can be as objective as possible.
So if you want to take your dream-analysing to the next level, you can apply to participate in the study – as long as you live in either the UK, Finland or Australia. The study will run for up to 12 months, with the resulting dataset including more than 1,000 dreams and daydreams.