Nightmares, while usually not a serious problem, are a disturbing and unpleasant phenomenon. Fortunately, the evidence suggests that there are certain non-invasive techniques that we can use to manipulate our emotions and appease the fears that manifest in our dreams.
A study carried out on 36 patients with a nightmare disorder showed that a combination of two simple therapies reduced the frequency with which they had bad dreams.
Specifically, these people explain in the specialized media Current Biology, they should rewrite content of their most frequent nightmares and play sounds associated with positive experiences while they slept.
The authors explain that there is a relationship between the emotions experienced in dreams and our emotional well-being. Based on this, the idea is that nightmares could be avoided. manipulating emotions in their dreams.
Although in most cases experiencing nightmares occasionally is normal, if they become recurring in content or frequent, they may be a sign of a health problem. For example, they can be a signal that indicates a poor quality sleepwhich in turn can be associated with a wide range of negative health effects.
Thus, a poor quality of sleep can increase anxiety, which can result in insomnia and nightmares. This explains why sleep problems and nightmares have increased with the covid-19 pandemic.
Taking into account also that we do not know why or how our brain generates dreams, the treatment of nightmares constitutes a whole medical challenge.
Link the chord to a positive memory
These researchers tested a combination of ‘imagery rehearsal therapy’, consisting of rewriting final nightmares to give them a happy ending and then ‘rehearse’ telling that story to internalize it, and a ‘selective memory reactivation’ therapy in which sound stimuli associated with positive memories are played to the patient while he sleeps.
The idea was to ‘link’ the positive version of their nightmares with the sound (in this case, a piano chord (C sixth ninth), playing it while they ‘rehearsed’, and then play it while they slept.
Patients reported a notable reduction in the frequency of their nightmares: on average, they went from suffering 2.94 per week to suffering 0.19. Although the figure increased after three months without treatmenthe only made it to 0.33, which is still a great result.
Sophie Schwartz, Alice Clerget, Lampros Perogamvros. Enhancing imagery rehearsal therapy for nightmares. Current Biology (2022). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.09.032