Pandemic dreams: quantitative and qualitative features of the oneiric activity during the lockdown due to COVID-19 in Italy

Maurizio Gorgoni, Serena Scarpelli, Valentina Alfonsi, Ludovica Annarumma, Susanna Cordone, Serena Stravolo, Luigi De Gennaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic had a strong impact on daily habits, emotional experience, mental health and sleep. A large body of evidence suggests that dreams are affected by both waking experiences and sleep pattern. In this view, the lockdown should have induced intense modifications in dreaming activity. The aim of the study was to assess dream features during the lockdown in Italy. Methods: We used an online survey to collect self-reported demographic, clinical, sleep and dream data. Our sample included 1091 participants. Results: Results point to an increased dream frequency, emotional load, vividness, bizarreness and length during the lockdown, compared to a pre-lockdown period. Higher dream frequency and specific qualitative features were found in females and subjects with poor sleep quality, nocturnal disruptive behaviours and depressive symptoms. Most of the dream features assessed during the lockdown were predicted by age, gender, depressive symptoms, presence/absence of other people at home, and territorial area. A specific focus on sleep features revealed that sleep duration and several sleep quality indexes were the best predictors of dream variables. During the lockdown, dreams were also characterized by increased negative emotions, which were particularly frequent in females, younger adults, and participants with poor sleep quality, nocturnal disruptive behaviours, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Our results confirm the hypothesis of a strong influence of the pandemic on dreaming, supporting both the hypothesis of continuity between wake and sleep mental processes and the view of a crucial influence of sleep quality and duration on dreaming activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-32
Number of pages13
JournalSleep Medicine
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Continuity hypothesis
  • COVID-19
  • Dreams
  • Emotions
  • Lockdown
  • Sleep pattern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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