Nightmares: Relationship to Well-Being

Hi all,
I promised my article review in this previous thread:, so here it is!

Nightmares and Bad Dreams:
Their Prevalence and Relationship to Well-Being

Antonio Zadra and D. C. Donderi

This study, by Zadra and Donderi, attempts to make the distinction between nightmares and bad dreams, and to determine the significance of the correlation between nightmares and bad dreams with well-being. The researchers not only set out to determine the relationship between wellness and nightmares, but also to demonstrate the reported differences between a retrospective study in nightmare frequency as compared with log book calculated frequency.

The methodology used was based on a survey / case study oriented approach, the control group consisting of participants who were not required to record dream frequency but who underwent the same protocols to test well-being. The measure of participant well-being would be dependent on their ability to initially complete the research protocol on personality with honesty and to the best of their ability. Participants were asked to fill out a log on a regular basis detailing the types of dreams they had experienced, and the intensity of these dreams. The participants were also required to document whether they awakened from disturbing dreams, as this was the classification for a nightmare. Retrospective as well as ongoing log book information was collected.
No ethical issues or moral boundaries were breached during the acquisition of nightmare and dream information, as the study did not set the intention to increase the frequency of nightmares but simply to observe their occurrence.
The method of investigation, though somewhat subjective and reliant on the participant’s personal accounts and observations, was appropriate. In this respect, it was effectively demonstrated by comparison of log book and retrospective accounts that an understatement of past nightmare frequency was reported more frequently than expected.
EEG and Polysomnographic monitors may have provided more empirical and objective evidence as a basis to distinguish between nightmares and bad dreams. This may have been achieved by comparison of respiratory rates and neural activation, as utilised by Guilleminault et al. (2003) in the study of sleep terrors in children.

The participants consisted of college undergraduates who volunteered to participate in the study through their school campus. The results should not be generalised to the general population, as the sample consisted of 68 females and 21 males and is not sufficiently representative of both sexes. The sample also had a mean age of 20.5, which is not sufficiently representative of a broad range of age groups, either older or younger.

The results of this study confirm previous studies by Wood and Bootzin (1990), which show that nightmares are more common than previously believed. The repeatability of this study depends on the definition used for ‘nightmare’ and ‘bad dream’, and the frequency which is chosen to retrospectively catalogue dreams (i.e. weekly or monthly) in order to calculate the yearly mean occurrence of nightmares and bad dreams.

There was support for the hypothesis that there is a stronger negative correlation between nightmare frequency and well being, as opposed to bad dream frequency and well-being. No causal relationship was demonstrated. These results are dependant on the definitions placed on “bad dream”, “nightmare”, and “well being”; particularly for the former two as dreams are considered to take place during an altered state of consciousness and are thus difficult to qualify (Kosslyn & Rosenberg, 2001).
This study does not directly suggest practical applications however it does suggest that the negative correlation between nightmares and well-being may be manipulated to cause positive effects either by the confrontation of nightmare situations to decrease the degree of mental/emotional issues in waking life, or the confrontation of mental/emotional issues in waking life to decrease the degree or frequency of nightmares. A third (or several) unknown factor(s) may be responsible for the observed correlations between nightmares and well being, thus rendering this study inconclusive in this respect.
Alternative explanations were considered, including the consideration that keeping a dream log may have increased the incidence of recall and thus the logged number of nightmares.


Belicki, K. (1992). Nightmare frequency versus nightmare distress: relations to psychopathology and cognitive style. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 101, No. 3, 592-597. Retrieved March 31, 2005, from PsycARTICLES database

Guilleminault, Christian, Palombini, Luciana, Pelayo, Ronald D., et al. (2003). Sleepwalking and sleep terrors in prepubertal children: what triggers them? Pediatrics, Vol. 111, Issue 1. Retrieved April 4, 2005, from Academic Search Elite database.

Kosslyn, S. & Rosenberg, R. (2001). The Brain, The Person, The World. USA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Watson, D. (2001). Dissociations of the night: individual differences in sleep-related experiences and their relation to dissociation and schizotypy. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 110, No. 4, 526-535. Retrieved March 28, 2005, from PsycARTICLES database

Wood, J. M., & Bootzin, R. R. (1990). The prevalence of nightmares and their independence from anxiety. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 64-68. Retrieved April 4, 2005, from PsycARTICLES database

Zadra, A. & Donderi, D. (2000). Nightmares and bad dreams: their prevalence and relationship to well-being. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 109, No. 2, 273-281. Retrieved March 28, 2005, from PsycARTICLES database.

Thats a pity they didnt test lds in this study.I mean something along “The way we deal with nightmares(monsters/dangers),its effectiveness and its corelation to real life well being”
I wonder about it ocasionally- if the way we treat nightmare dangers/dcs has any influence on real life quality or amount of eventuall further nighmares.

From personal experience, I’m absolutely convinced that the way we treat DC’s and nightmare situations has an impact (well… at least correlates) with our waking emotional state. For example I know that if I’ve dealt with a nightmare character in a stern but fair manner, I wake up feeling much more refreshed and ‘resolved’ than if I attack that character or if I let them attach me.
From memory (I wrote this review a good couple of weeks ago now!) they did address lucid dreaming, but only with respect to it’s affect on emotions and well being, not as a means for coping with nightmares or evil DC’s.

Antonio Zadra, who made this study, is one of the LD specialists. He published an article titled “Lucid dreaming as a treatment for recurrent nightmares”.

Good on him.But the topic put this way is allready kind of known.I was more about away you treat your nightmares and its relation with time nightmares are gone and if it somehow affects rl quality of life.
I can just assume that it effects us differently when we deal with dream dangers by power and differently if we choose negotiation or any other "smart "way.