Many have tried researching nightmares and what bring them about. But due to the fact that bad dreams can be personal, subjective and often fleeting, researching them can be, well, a nightmare, for the lack of a better term.
However, while science may not know about all the mysteries that clutter your brain, scientists do know a few things about your nightmares that will definitely surprise you, if not totally creep you out, especially number 5.
1. Nightmares Aren’t Literal
While most researchers can agree to nightmares being the result of anxiety, it’s rare for them to be a literal representation of what’s bothering you. So, if your last nightmare was about Chucky, it doesn’t mean you should be afraid of your son’s toys.
Tufts University conducted a study after the 9/11 attacks while looking for dreams and nightmares. The researchers theorized that the attacks did indeed leave everyone in the US with varying degrees of trauma.
Those taking part in the research were not directly affected by the horrifying attack on US soil, but even these individuals reported an increase in vivid or intense dreams and nightmares. However, none dreamt specifically about the events of that day, like the airplanes, the Twin Towers, or even the image of the falling buildings which were replayed over and over on TV.
2. Can’t Scream When In A Nightmare
Reactions to bad dreams are not like what you see on TV. When you are having a nightmare, you are in deep sleep and won’t be tossing and turning like in the movies.
Aneesa Das, M.D, from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, explains “During dream sleep—the REM stage—all our muscles are paralyzed, except for our eye muscles and the ones we use for breathing,”
So, once you sit up and are screaming at the top of your lungs, you are already awake which is why you remember some nightmares more clearly because you wake up straight from the nightmare.
3. Nightmares Are Rehearsals For The Real Thing
Why do you dream or have nightmares? Researchers have theorized a number of answers like some who believe that your dreams are the reflections of the subconscious mind, and others have hypotheses that dreams are necessary to keep your brain active while your body rests.
AJ Marsden, Ph.D., from Beacon College in Florida, says “A nightmare may be our brain’s way of preparing us for a particular fearful situation,” which is a sound argument. While having a dream about a home break-in can be scary, your subconscious might just be helping you prepare for the situation, if it ever arises. Dreams can help you face your fears and make you feel less afraid.
4. Control Your Nightmares
There has been researched, a way to control your nightmares. Lucid dreaming is the state in which you know you are dreaming and can control the direction of the dream, however, it is said to be difficult and requires considerable practice. Most who start controlling their dreams are quickly ejected from the dream and wake up.
The technique is being used in research for those suffering from PTSD and nightmares. “The thinking is that by teaching them to control their nightmares, they can begin to work through their trauma,” Dr. Das says.
5. Scarier Then Nightmares, Night Terrors
If you are frightened of having a nightmare, you probably don’t want to find out that there is something scarier than nightmares. Night terrors, while uncommon for adults, can be very distressing for the parents of kids who suffer from this.
What happens when a child is having night terrors is that he or she can be screaming, but would have their eyes open. This along with the fact that the child can’t be woken up by external stimulation is what scares the parents. But fortunately, the child won’t remember the terrors when he or she wake up from sleep. Research has shown that night terror happen when the child can’t transition between deep sleep (stage 4 sleep) and REM sleep.
So, there you have it, while you may worry about the boogeyman under your bed, there are some who have nightmares that are far scarier. Different people have different varying dreams and nightmares. Some can be scary while others can be confusing and illogical when you recall them after you wake up. But, fear not, there are treatments for nightmare disorder Let us know your most memorable nightmare or dream in the comments below so that we may add to our list of things people experience during their sleep.