The Relationship Between Nightmares and Well-Being

Hi all,
I’m currently working on an article review for my psych course. The study in question attempted to document the correlational relationship between “nightmares” and well being, and compared this with the correlation between “bad dreams” and well being. (Zadra & Donderi 1996, “Nightmares and Bad Dreams: Their Prevalence and Relationship to Well-Being”)
I’m interested to hear how many people have taught themselves to confront nightmare situations (whether lucid or not), and if you have observed any beneficial effect after confrontation of your nightmare situation.
Alternatively, have any dreamers here discovered that dealing with waking emotional/mental anxiety has lead to a decreased incidency in nightmare frequency?
If anyone is interested in my article review, I’ll be happy to post it here after it has been completed.

To start off the discussion, I personally have learnt to confront my nightmare DC’s both in LD and ND, and am incredibly prowd of the success that I have made in this area. I did have one intense nightmare last night, which I’ll post in my online dream journal thread at some point tomorrow (it was a killer!!).

Take care,

  • S

I’d love to read it when your done.
I’d also enjoy hearing about your dream journal. I like reading other peoples dreams, gives me some cool stuff to think about.

I can’t really remember being able to confront nightmares, but they have decreased in number after I’ve started to train to LD.

But after my neighbours and their dog moved in my neighborhood, I’ve had more nightmares about dogs. Their dog isn’t a very nice one, and my uncle got himself a guarding dog about the same time.

Well I don’t know if any response I give is going to be relevant - I’ve never had a true nightmare. But I think I know why, if that counts as “confronting my nightmares!”

I think it’s because, in dreams, I love the excitement of uncertain situations. I rarely feel scared, and if I do it’s only on the surface because underneath I realise I’m dreaming and that there’s no way I’m going to come to harm, whatever happens. So if I’m being chased by monsters who want to kill me, for example, I’ll either fight them, make friends with them, talk them out of it, escape, chase them instead or find some fiendishly clever way to outwit them so that they’ll leave me alone. And for me that’s not only not frightening, it’s a fantastic adventure into the bargain! :content: The more exciting, the better, I say. Every hurdle is just a challenge to be overcome (even if it’s by running away sometimes!), and I always achieve it in the end, even if it takes ages.

Again, can’t answer this directly. But the content of my dreams doesn’t change atypically if I’m under a period of stress. Not that I’ve noticed, anyway.

I find when I’m really dreading something/fear that something may happen, they I have a nightmare about it.
Um, other then that I dunno :wink:.

You might find interesting this article- about dream characters,there are some paragraphs about nightmares as well. … highlight=

I had an intense nightmare last night too!!! hmm.

i can confront anything but my biggest fear in nightmares, but it’s real hard and i often times opt to wake up instead… i semi-confronted the last nightmare DC but it happened so quick and whilst semi-lucid that i lost my head.

well i did confront her technically, held her hand for a few moments… so odd…

and yeah prolonged periods of stress and unwellness = nightmares for me.

confronting the dreams helps you cope with life… but coping with life helps you the most.

Just out of curiosity, the dreams your looking for, do they have to be nightmares, or do anxiety dreams count to? Cause I have anxiety dreams sometimes.

That’s a good question Josh. In this particular study the definition between a ‘bad dream’ and a ‘nightmare’ was only that you wake up from a nightmare. Now tell me… doesn’t that seem a little silly? I know that I’ve had a ‘nightmare’ according to this definition that wasn’t really that intense. If it were up to me to design a study, and if I were responsible for the definition between ‘nightmare’, ‘bad dream’, or even ‘anxious dream’ as you have mentioned I would probably use a Somnograph (which essentially measures body temperature, respiration etc) and an EEG monitor to make the distinction between these definitions - thus allowing a more person oriented estimation of nightmare/bad dream intensity.
To answer your question - anxious dreams count, if you were intensely ‘anxious’ and you feel that this had a profound negative effect on your mental well being.
Also if you’re interested in my dream journal (Mostly FA’s, LD’s and WILD attempts) just click on the link in my sig block!

Yeah - I thought the definition between a nightmare and a bad dream was a little weak. Maybe for your review of the article you can redefine what is a bad dream vs a nightmare and then reevaluate the results based on your definiton?

I don’t know… just an idea… I tend not to have nightmares… the closest thing is a FA… but thats it really!

Thanks for that link Jack, I’ll be sure to check it out!

I know what you mean here. Even though I had an absolute whopper of a nightmare the other night, it kind of excites me to think about it - somewhat ‘movie-like’!! (as opposed to your regular and sometimes boring, run-of-the-mill dream)

Thanks for the suggestion Carnum, I most definitely included my own definition in my article review! I’ll post it up once my lecturer has marked it.

I would say, when you wake up from a nightmare, the feeling of the nightmare persists, sometimes during a long time. You cannot go to sleep immediatly again, cause it seems that the nightmare will continue. Moreover, the emotion associated with nightmares is fear and panic. Sometimes, you have to switch the light on, altough it seems so irrationnal.

In a bad dream, main emotions are angriness, sadness, anxiety. It can wake you up too, but you immediatly realize that it was a dream, and the feelings quite immediatly disappear.

Don’t you think it’s the difference between nightmares and bad dreams?

Yes, I would agree with that, but what I could read from the original article was that a nightmare was defined as a bad dream that you wake up from… I just don’t think that captures the essence of a good nightmare.

Your interpretation however is more to my liking… I would define the experiences in my own words as:

Nightmare: A dream that leaves you with an irrational fear upon awakeneing.

Bad Dream: A dream that contains negative elements and connotations to the dreamer.

Hmmmmmm… maybe my defintions are a little too concise?

The study in question concluded that ‘bad dreams’ and ‘nightmares’ are differing degrees of the same basic phenomenon. Essentially a correlation was found between well-being and nightmares, as well as well-being and bad dreams, but the correlation with nightmares was stronger. This lead the researchers to conclude that bad dreams may essentially be defined as ‘watered down’ nightmares.

Its amazing they spent a whole lot of money to work out that a bad dream and a nightmare are both dreams!! They must feel really proud of themselves for advancing science just that one bit further!!!

Couldn’t the correlation just as easily be associated with fatigue from having a disrupted sleep pattern? I could only find abstracts of the article, but I don’t think they ran a comparrison against norms?

The purpose of the study was to discover the correlation of bad dreams and nightmares on well being - the more nightmares you had, the less likely you were to be emotionally happy and healthy.
The variables of stress, anxiety, depression, psychopathology (and others) were measured with:

  • Eysenck Personality Inventory
  • State-Trait Anxiety Inventory
  • Depression Inventory
  • Symptom Index of the SYmptom Checklist-90
  • Adjective Checklist

I guess comparison against the norms in this case constitues the retrospective information that was collected. Each participant was required to estimate the number of nightmares and bad dreams they had experienced over the past month, and over the past year. This in itself yielded an interesting result, retrospective accounts always showed a lesser degree of nightmare occurence than did the daily log. Participants were not aware that that the focus of the study was primarily on nightmares, as they were also asked to report every dream that they recalled and the emotion that was present in this dream, as well as emotional intensity. I guess this should control for confounding factors, though it’s entirely possible that the very knowledge that you’re in a research study could lead a person to have frequent nightmares!! :tongue:

If a nightmare is defined as a bad dream that includes fear (that’s what I think of when I hear the word nightmare), then I don’t think I’ve ever had one in my entire life that I can remember. I have fairly good recall too.

I’ve had bad dreams before though. From time to time they’ll be anxiety dreams, over school or something else. Most of the time though they’re depressing dreams; dreams that put a damper on my entire day before it even begins.

I’m surprised by my lack of fear both in real life and in my dreams though, because I certainly wasn’t always this way. I must have had some nightmares before I built up my dream recall though.

Snape - Nice reply to my rather antagonistic post :shy:

I was only being facetious to this post… I knew the study was looking at well being in relation to nightmares vs bad dreams;p

Still, when I refered to ‘norms’, I was referring to people who just had a normal nights sleep (as opposed to the subjects who were asked to look at their dreams etc). It might even be worth a study to find out if being aware of your dreams (in general) effects your well being vs those that are blissfully ignorant of them?!

Fatigue never appears to be factored in these experiments and I feel that they are trying to draw conclusions in the wrong places. There have been similar studies that have shown that dreaming is important for memory functions… because they keep waking up the subjects in the middle of the night, and then making them do a battery of memory tests. And when they don’t do as well as someone who got a good nights…

Ahhh, now I see what you mean - thanks for clarifying :grin: . But how could you compare one study, where you’re attempting to determine the effect of nightmares on well-being, and another study, where you’re just looking at well-being but not allowing the participants to report their dreams? I think I know what you’re getting at though, there was a control group used who reported that they seldom experienced nightmares or bad dreams - and consequently they had the highlest level of psychological well-being.
It’s funny what you say about awareness of dreams possibly being the variable that affects well-being, as I had considered the very same idea at lunch time today! Perhaps it’s those people who forget (or choose not to remember) their nightmares, that have the highest level of mental well-being? I’m sure you meant the opposite of this, but would it be possible to empirically prove that someone has had a nightmare if they weren’t able to report it? (maybe using EEG or Somnographic monitors?)

Snape, what do you mean by “dealing with waking emotional/mental anxiety”?