Men and women all have nightmares and bad dreams, but a recent study found the content of such dreams is drastically different between the two genders. The study also delved into the emotional impact of such dreams and evaluated “fear” as a factor.
Psychology researchers at the University of Montreal found men were more likely to dream about disasters, like natural, environmental travesties and war, while women would dream of relationship conflicts.
“Physical aggression is the most frequently reported theme in nightmares. Moreover, nightmares become so intense they will wake you up. Bad dreams, on the other hand, are especially haunted by interpersonal conflicts,” the researchers Genevieve Robert and Antonio Zadra wrote of the difference between the two.
In their efforts to better understand the difference between a bad dream and a nightmare, the researchers had 572 participants keep a dream journal for two to five weeks, according to the study published in the journal Sleep. Using these more than 9,000 detailed narratives of dreams kept in the university’s “dream repository” the study authors pulled out 253 nightmares and 431 bad dreams from 331 participants for evaluation.
Participants rated nightmares as more emotionally intense than bad dreams. The authors also found that fear wasn’t the only emotional factor. In 35 percent of nightmares and 55 percent of bad dreams, the primary emotion felt by the participant after the dream was something other than fear.
Overall, it was concluded that nightmares were “a somewhat rarer — and more severe — expression of the same basic phenomenon” as bad dreams, the authors wrote.
On the university’s website, the authors said there is still much to research about dreams and nightmares, including why they occur and how they impact people’s emotional states.
“Nightmares are not a disease in themselves but can be a problem for the individual who anticipates them or who is greatly distressed by their nightmares. People who have frequent nightmares may fear falling asleep – and being plunged into their worst dreams. Some nightmares are repeated every night. People who are awakened by their nightmares cannot get back to sleep, which creates artificial insomnia,” Zadra said.