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Boo! New Study Reveals the Stuff of Nightmares

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The Université de Montréal recently carried out one of the most in-depth studies of nightmares ever recorded. Researchers found that most nightmares are associated with physical aggression, while less than two per cent involved falling.

UdeM’s massive study, which was carried out by psychology researchers Antonio Zadra and Geneviève Robert, included an examination of just under 10,000 dreams. More than five hundred people participated in the study.

The subsequent report has revealed the dark, twisted images that are making their way into our nightmares in the hectic twenty-first century.

Somewhat surprisingly, Zadra and Robert found that less than two per cent of all nightmares involved falling, a sensation that has often been associated with nightmares.

Instead, the most prevalent nightmares involved some kind of catastrophic encounter. Zadra and Robert say men are most likely to dream about natural disasters and frightening creaturs (like insects), while women’s nightmares tended to involve interpersonal conflict — such as a life-changing dispute with a loved one.

Zadra and Robert say they were stunned by the wide variety of themes emerging from people’s nightmares. “There are many emotions involved, not just fear,” Robert said. “Death, health concerns and threats are common themes in nightmares.”

The researchers said many participants reported feeling guilt, sadness, and confusion in their nightmares. But not all nightmares ended with a negative outcome — in fact, Zadra and Robert said more than one in five involved a partially or entirely positive result.

The UdeM study has been published in the journal SLEEP. Zadra and Robert say they hope it will lead to new studies focusing on how our nightmares relate to personal events.

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