Are coronavirus nightmares a thing? Doctors say yes

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s important now more than ever to get a good night’s sleep and stay as healthy as possible. But the coronavirus pandemic is having a major impact on our sleeping habits, and more of us are having frequent nightmares.

An occasional nightmare is normal. But recently, Dr. Richard Friedenheim, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Abington-Jefferson Health, said more and more patients have been coming to him about dark, scary dreams infiltrating their minds nearly every night. 

Part of it, he said, is because our normal sleep schedules have been disrupted — plus, all the virus-related stress.

“A lot of people are watching really disturbing news close to their bedtimes,” he said. “They’re reviewing disturbing situations. There’s a sense of the unknown, and we’ve actually endorsed social isolation.”

Instead, he suggests keeping sleep schedules the same as they were before stay-at-home orders. He advised keeping the bedroom dark and cool, placing electronics in another room, avoiding the news before shut-eye, and avoiding alcohol, which can also disrupt your sleep patterns.

“One of the things we can do to maintain this whole pattern,” he added, “contact with your families. You don’t want to create more social isolation, which can worsen stress, which can lead to further nightmares.”

Insomnia is another big problem. Even for health care workers, sleep is scarce.

“We’re hearing from the physicians, ‘I’m not sleeping at all.’ It’s not just the people cooped up at home, it’s physicians. It’s all of us. We’re in this together, we’ll get through this together,” he encouraged.

Friedenheim reminded everyone that this won’t last forever.

“(Insomnia) is an adaptive mechanism, but we certainly want to resume our prior patterns of sleep. It will be temporary,” Friedenheim said.