Nightmares linked to depression and anxiety

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Nightmares can be defined as dreams that cause a strong emotional response in the person experiencing them and which evokes feelings of horror or fear. Typically a nightmare will involve some sort of danger, a sense of discomfort and psychological distress.

Most of us have had the experience of a nightmare at some time in our lives and the majority of us think nothing of it.

Now the results of a recent study seem to suggest that nightmares are associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety.

Chinese researchers investigated the experience of nightmares in 9,000 adults and looked at the frequency of nightmares and any correlation between having nightmares and other health problems reported the Daily Mail.

The results showed that those suffering from regular nightmares were 5.7 times more likely to suffer from mental health problems like depression and anxiety than those who rarely experienced nightmares. Regular nightmares were defined as having experienced a nightmare at least once a week. Around one in 20 people experienced nightmares regularly.

According to the Daily Mail the five most common nightmares experienced by those taking part in the study were falling (39.5 percent), followed by being chased (25.7 percent), being paralyzed (25.3 percent) being late for an event (24 percent), a close person dying or disappearing (20.9 percent), horror films (18.9 percent) and being unable to complete a task (17.3 percent).

Other interesting findings included that women experienced nightmares more frequently than men with 6.2 per cent claiming to suffer from a nightmare at least once a week compared to just 3.8 per cent of men. Nightmare frequency was also linked to unemployment, low income, and higher levels of stress.

Having regular nightmares also led to an increased risk of sleep problems like insomnia, which led to a greater incidence of daytime fatigue, headaches, and difficulty getting out of bed in the morning as well as depression and anxiety. The researchers also reckoned there could be a genetic aspect to nightmares.

“The high correlation between nightmare frequency and sleeprelated daytime consequences underlines the fact that nightmares might have a strong effect on the wellbeing of the patient, and should be treated” Dr Michael Schredl, of the Sleep Laboratory at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany told the Daily Mail.

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  1. Depression Free
    Posted July 6, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I believe so, nightmares linked to depression and vice versa. Thinking too much can cause depression and can definitely bring unto our sleep. Switch your thinking to other matters, it can belittle the stress.

  2. 04:14
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    I always remember having significantly more nightmares than other people. I’ve gone through periods where I would have nightmares 3 or more times a week. I can say that I recall being more stressed out sometimes when I had increased periods of nightmares, however often times I have nightmares and I do not feel any stress prior to having them. This week I have had nightmares 4 nights in a row…from what I can remember. I remember having nightmares last week as well but didn’t keep better track. My nightmares last week included being late for something, being chased and people breaking in to my house. This week they were all people trying to break in to my house…always via the front door, except once a car reversed right through my front window. As soon as they enter the house in any shape I wake up. I’ve often had these kind of dreams and it was always a struggle to keep them out…it felt like 30 minutes of constantly relocking doors/windows that magically become unlocked. I call the police and they never come. This week it’s no struggle, the people get in to the house in a matter of minutes…but I wake up. The weirdest thing (and I can say I’ve noticed this before) I’m waking up at the same time every night…04:14…four nights in a row now…same dream idea, different people (except the last two nights were the same 3 teenagers – possibly adapted from real life…a couple of weeks ago I saw three teenagers walking down my street late at night trying to open every car parked on the road). I have a BSc in Psychology and studied sleep and dreams so I am somewhat familiar with this and it could be normal or not. Anyone else ever get this or have suggestions?

  3. 04:14
    Posted September 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Forgot to mention….As a child I always had several dreams, most extremely vivid…great imagination! I have more nightmares as an adult and since about 19 (mid-twenties now) I think I sleepwalk, talk in my sleep and have even jumped out of bed in the middle of the night, scaring the daylights out of my husband, screaming and panicking about a hole in the road (as I was looking in to the back garden). He woke me up when trying to calm me down…and I felt completely flustered and confused as I came to realize there was no hole but knowing how real it felt and how authentic my feelings/thoughts were.

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