Explaining Your Vivid Dreams During COVID-19

Studies have shown that major historical events like the COVID-19 global pandemic and the 9/11 terror attacks change the way people dream, making their outpourings of emotion much more vivid and memorable.

Have your dreams been more intense and memorable over the past two months?

“The reality is that dreams don’t happen to us; we happen to our dreams.” — Ian Wallace, dream specialist

You’re not alone. A recent “dream survey” conducted by an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School shows that vivid dreams are on the rise as COVID-19 has spread around the globe. You can take the survey here.

It’s not the first time a major historical event has affected our dreams. After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, a study showed that more people were reporting intense, vivid dreams.

Listen: WDET listeners have their dreams analyzed live on air with dream specialist Ian Wallace

Courtesy of Ian Wallace
Courtesy of Ian Wallace

Ian Wallace is a psychologist and dream specialist based in Scotland who wrote the book “The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert.”


Wallace says dreams are a way to “understand who we are, who we’ve been and who we can become.”


“For centuries, we thought they were messages from the spirits,” says Wallace. “The reality is that dreams don’t happen to us; we happen to our dreams. We create everything that we experience in them. A dream is a way of updating our sense of self.”


Wallace says a lack of certainty about the future has created more intense, realistic dreams for many.


“The absolute fundamental function of dreaming is to process unresolved emotions,” says Wallace. “That’s one of the reasons why our dreams seem to be a lot more vivid and a lot more memorable during this COVID-19 situation.”

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID-19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET’s mission. Please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.