A study suggests that individuals with greater emotional reactivity, or neuroticism, have nightmares more often than other people.
A new study has uncovered some of the factors that contribute to having nightmares. The researchers found that people with greater emotional reactivity, also known as neuroticism, have more nightmares and are more distressed than normal people.
Having nightmares is common, but the intensity of the distress they cause is not the same in everyone. For some people, having a nightmare at night is a very unpleasant experience. The anguish and feeling of distress can last the rest of the day in the most extreme cases.
In some cases, a person may even have flashbacks of nightmares while awake, fear of falling asleep due to the anticipation of having nightmares, and mood disturbances, according to PsyPost.
“The aim of this study was to examine the contribution of socio-demographic variables, nightmare frequency, and neuroticism to global nightmare distress,” write the authors of the study published in the scientific journal Sleep Science.
For the purpose of the investigation, almost 2,500 people answered a questionnaire about nightmares. Scientists have defined nightmares as “dreams with strong negative emotions that result in awakening”. And they add that “the dream plot can be recalled very vividly upon awakening”.
Nearly one in every ten participants said they had recurring nightmares and 18% said they had recurring nightmares during childhood. In addition, 27% of people who had nightmares said they were related to their real lives.
The researchers found that women had more nightmares than men, but less when neuroticism was taken into account in the analysis. In this case, the differences between genders were not significant. This suggests that “neuroticism is a factor that at least partially explains gender differences in the frequency of nightmares”.
A correlation was also found between age and frequency of nightmares. The older the person, the more nightmares they had and the more distress they experienced.