The “echo effect” of the pandemic in dreaming experience: a mixed-method study on contents, structure, and functions
Recent research has shown several changes in sleeping patterns and dreaming during the COVID-19 pandemic. Research typically focused on dream phenomena changes, such as nightmare frequency and dream recall across the different waves of the pandemic. The current study aimed to explore the dreamers’ experience of their dreaming during the lockdown (T1) and the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (T2), through a mixed-method. In particular, it provides a picture on dream narrative features, in terms of dream structure, content, and functions during these two phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of a total of 815 participants, 60 people who narrated a dream both at T1 and T2 were included in the analysis. The Speech Graph analysis was used to assess the structure of dreams, whereas the T-Lab software was used to assess the contents and functions of dreams. Psychological distress and dreaming phenomena indexes were also integrated into the analysis. Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed rank test showed no difference in structural features of dreams from the lockdown to the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the analysis of the elementary context, four thematic clusters emerged: Reaching for the sun, but it was just a dream, Caring, Suffering over a loss, and A very vivid dream life with many nightmares. The factorial mapping also organized 3 vectors of meaning, representative of different dreaming modalities: From the inside to the outside, From life to death scenarios, and Affective systems. Findings showed a kind of “echo effect” of the pandemic on dreaming, considered as an index of psychic functioning on an individual and collective level. Psychological distress was positively associated not only with nightmares but also with ‘sweet dreams’ where an incoherent state of mind is experienced between waking and dream life.