Why Some People Have More Bad Dreams Than Others
Bad dreams aren’t always bad. Sometimes, they help us solve problems. Sometimes, they help us process trauma. But while we know they can be useful, there’s not a lot of information on what causes bad dreams and nightmares. A new study, published in Scientific Reports, offers a piece of the puzzle, finding that bad dreams at night might be linked to your level of anxiety during the day.
Researchers in Sweden and Finland reached this conclusion after surveying healthy participants on their general feelings of ill- and well-being during their waking hours. Then, over the next three weeks, participants kept a daily dream journal, chronicling the details of their dreams the night before, as well as the emotions they experienced during those dreams.
The team, led by psychology and cognitive science specialists at the Univeristies of Turku and Skövde, then compared participants’ daytime anxiety levels (or lack thereof) with their emotional experience in dreams.
They found that participants with greater peace of mind during the day, were less likely to have a bad dream. But participants who reported greater anxiety during the day reported having more bad dreams filled with negative emotions at night.
The researchers theorize that people with less anxiety and greater mental well-being during the day are more likely to be better skilled at regulating their emotions while conscious — an ability they are able to exercise unconsciously during their nighttime dreaming as well. This suggests that getting bad dreams might also be linked to self-control, though they add more study is necessary to reach such a conclusion.
Until then, it seems the best way to have fewer bad dreams at night might be to work on how we feel and react during the day.