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Sleep. 2014 Feb 1;37(2):409-17. doi: 10.5665/sleep.3426.

Thematic and content analysis of idiopathic nightmares and bad dreams.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVES:

To conduct a comprehensive and comparative study of prospectively collected bad dream and nightmare reports using a broad range of dream content variables.

DESIGN:

Correlational and descriptive.

SETTING:

Participants' homes.

PARTICIPANTS:

Three hundred thirty-one adult volunteers (55 men, 275 women, 1 not specified; mean age = 32.4 ± 14.8 y).

INTERVENTIONS:

N/A.

MEASUREMENT AND RESULTS:

Five hundred seventy-two participants kept a written record of all of their remembered dreams in a log for 2 to 5 consecutive weeks. A total of 9,796 dream reports were collected and the content of 253 nightmares and 431 bad dreams reported by 331 participants was investigated. Physical aggression was the most frequently reported theme in nightmares, whereas interpersonal conflicts predominated in bad dreams. Nightmares were rated by participants as being substantially more emotionally intense than were bad dreams. Thirty-five percent of nightmares and 55% of bad dreams contained primary emotions other than fear. When compared to bad dreams, nightmares were more bizarre and contained substantially more aggressions, failures, and unfortunate endings.

CONCLUSIONS:

The results have important implications on how nightmares are conceptualized and defined and support the view that when compared to bad dreams, nightmares represent a somewhat rarer-and more severe-expression of the same basic phenomenon.

KEYWORDS:

Bad dreams; dream content; nightmare; parasomnia; sex differences

PMID:
24497669
PMCID:
PMC3900621
DOI:
10.5665/sleep.3426
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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