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Home > Research Articles > Don't Have Nightmares. Sleep Well ; Study Into the Causes of Bad Dreams

Western Mail

Friday, April 25, 2003

Western Mail - April 23, 2003

PSYCHOLOGISTS at a Welsh university are trying to find out why we have nightmares.

In ground-breaking research the University of Wales, Swansea, is seeking to establish why some of us are terrified by our bad dreams, while others are simply not bothered. The research, led by Dr Mark Blagrove, could lead to new forms of treatment for those of us robbed of sleep by bad dreams. Often the problem is suffered by people who have undergone trauma, either in the form of an accident or possibly due to the loss of loved ones. Now hundreds of students in Swansea are being asked to take part in a two week study. Those involved are being asked to record their nightmares in a diary or to speak about them into a tape recorder as they wake up.

At the same time, those in the study are asked to keep a diary for the full two weeks, describing what happens to them daily and how they feel.

Dr Blagrove said, "We want anyone who has bad dreams or nightmares, however frequently or infrequently. We want people from all walks of life and all ages.

"Nightmares and bad dreams can be a big problem for people but little is known about what causes them."

As well as recording their nightmares, those taking part will be asked to fill in a per-sonality questionnaire. Dr Blagrove added, "We want them to say whether the nightmare woke them up and whether there were any good emotions at all during the nightmare."

Approximately 5% to 7% of adults in Britain report problems of recurrent nightmares.

In a national survey of more than 4,000 doctors, 4% of their patients reported nightmares as one of their biggest complaints. And around 24% of non-psychotic patients seen by psychiatric emergency services report nightmares.

Similarly 25% of both chronic male and female al-coholics and drug abusers report frequent nightmares.

America was reported to be on the brink of a national "nightmare epidemic" following the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Wash i ng on .

The Chicago Tribune repor-ted a huge influx of patients to sleep disorder clinics. And school counsellors were reporting a big rise in pupils waking with dreams about people falling from buildings.

US psychologist Alan Siegel said, "There has never been anything like this in our history, not after Pearl Harbour or the first Gulf War."

'Visitations of demons'

A NIGHTMARE is frequently defined as a long, frightening dream that wakes the dreamer. Some studies say only disturbing dreams which actually wake the sleeper up should be termed nightmares while worrying dreams which do not cause the dreamer to wake should be termed bad dreams. Sleep terrors (sometimes called pavor nocturnus in children and incubus attack in adults) are marked by a sense of confusion upon wakening and there is an absence of recall of elaborate dream imagery. Sleep terrors typically occur in the first hours of sleep. Early views of nightmares believed they involved the visitations of monsters, demons, ghosts or evil spirits. Later, Freud suggested nightmares represented wishes for punishment emanating from the superego.

(C) 2003 Western Mail. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved