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If a nightmare leaves you feeling frightened and unsettled, researchers say it’s not just in your mind.
Study experts from Canada have concluded that nightmares have a greater emotional impact than a mere bad dreams. Analyzing close to 10,000 dreams, psychologists focused on the narratives of 253 nightmares and 431 bad dreams and discovered the following:
A nightmare’s intensity will wake you out of a sound sleep. The most common reported theme is physical aggression; other frequent topics include death, health concerns and threats. Also, men’s nightmares are more likely to revolve around natural disasters while women were twice as likely to have nightmares based around interpersonal conflicts. (We’re more fearful of arguments than earthquakes, I guess.)
There are also recurring nightmares, which may involve reliving a traumatic event, i.e. being in combat.
A bad dream, however, usually has to do with interpersonal conflicts but the vision will not frighten you to the point of waking up in tears or terror.
Researchers say that 5 percent to 6 percent of people suffer from nightmares, which can affect their physical and emotional health. “Nightmares are not a disease in themselves but can be a problem for the individual who anticipates them or who is greatly distressed by their nightmares,” said Antonio Zadra, psychology researcher at the Université de Montréal, as reported by ScienceDaily. “People who have frequent nightmares may fear falling asleep — and being plunged into their worst dreams. Some nightmares are repeated every night. People who are awakened by their nightmares cannot get back to sleep, which creates artificial insomnia.”
And now for the not-so-scary news — nightmares are treatable through visualization techniques. In other words, a sufferer is taught how to create a new scenario by taking control of their dream. For example, turning war into peace, attacking their attacker (and winning) or even being saved by a favorite superhero.
Once again, a positive result comes back to our positive thoughts. I have read about this mental imagery technique before, and over the years, I have (at times) changed my circumstances in mid-dream. And in most of those dreams, the sadness vanished, the bad guys disappeared…and my last name miraculously changed to Clooney.