Based on research by Kothe, Pietrowsky, 2001, written by Kyle Piecora, M.S.
Although nightmares are infrequent, they are scary. Do they affect us the day after when we are awake?
Over one month, German psychologists monitored the sleep quality and dreaming patterns of 41 people who had occasional nightmares, but no mental disorders. Before the study, their personality traits were measured. Daily during the study, participants completed measures of anxiety and mood. If any of the subjects happened to have a nightmare, they also completed the Nightmare Behavior Questionnaire, designed especially for the study. The day after a nightmare, subjects were more anxious and had lower well-being than on days not following a nightmare. They tended to feel more anxious, vulnerable, agitated, and awake, on days after these bad dreams. People who scored high in neuroticism, meaning those who are more prone to experiencing negative emotions, as well as people who had health concerns, reported that nightmares had a larger negative impact on their lives the next day, including experiencing physical complaints.
Nightmares’ effects can linger on, even after we wake up! If you have frequent and disturbing nightmares, seek help from a professional psychologist, as you may find ways to not only sleep better, but function better in your daily life.
Kothe, M. & Pietrowsky, R. (2001). Behavioral effects of nightmares and their correlations to personality patterns. Dreaming, 11(1), 43-52.