6 Facts About Nightmares

by Allison Tsai Editor

Fear is not the main emotion in nightmares

Research published in the journal Sleep has found that fear is not the prominent emotion in nightmares. Rather, researchers found that it's more often feelings of sadness, confusion and guilt. They said these are the nightmares more likely to stick with a person after they wake up.

Nightmares happen during REM sleep

Sleep experts believe that all dreams, including nightmares, take place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Most people experience REM sleep three to five times per night.

Five to six percent of people have nightmares

Nightmares can lead to persistent problems, as people can anticipate them and develop anxiety. They may fear falling asleep, and when awakened by a nightmare, will be unable to fall back asleep. This is called artificial insomnia.

Nightmares can be triggered by traumatic events

Some nightmares may be triggered by traumatic events, such as soldiers returning from war. Soldiers often report seeing the scenes that caused their injuries in dreams. Alcohol and psychotropic drug consumption or withdrawal may also trigger intense nightmares.

Bad dreams and nightmares are different

Researchers asked 572 volunteers to record their dreams over a period of two to five weeks and then analyzed the 9,796 dreams that were reported. Death, health concerns and threats are common to nightmares. But, bad dreams, according to the researchers, are more about interpersonal conflicts.

Physical aggression is the most reported theme in nightmares

Scientists have found that physical aggression was the most frequently reported theme in nightmares and that those nightmares are more likely to become so intense they wake a person.

Allison Tsai
Meet Our Writer
Allison Tsai

Allison wrote for HealthCentral as an editor and producer for Allergy, Asthma, Cold & Flu, COPD, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Skin Care, Skin Cancer, and Sleep Disorders.