Study: Men, Women Have Very Different Nightmares

But they're not always fear-filled: study

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 3, 2014 8:44 AM CST | Updated Feb 8, 2014 7:08 AM CST

(Newser) – Men and women needn't be awake to experience the world differently, a study suggests: Even our bad dreams are quite different. A study of the dream journals of 572 people found that women's disturbing dreams tend to focus on social conflicts—friendships and romances gone south, for instance. Men, meanwhile, more often reported sleep jarred by disasters, whether floods or swarms of bugs. Neither sex, however, has more bad dreams, the Huffington Post notes. The participants logged nearly 10,000 dreams in the journals, and researchers at the University of Montreal used a sample of 253 nightmares and 431 bad dreams to arrive at their findings. The Telegraph explains the researchers' distinction between bad dreams and nightmares: We can sleep through bad dreams, but nightmares wake us up.

"Physical threats are more likely to characterize nightmares whereas psychological threats, including threats to self-esteem, are more prominent in bad dreams," the researchers observe in the study, published in the journal SLEEP. Though the main emotion in 65% of nightmares and 45% of bad dreams was fear, that wasn't always the case—anger, sadness, or confusion also dominated some dreams. Two interesting findings: Only 1.5% of the sampled nightmares and bad dreams involved themes of falling, and nightmares don't always end badly. Write the researchers, "22% of all nightmares and 38% of bad dreams contained either a partially positive or entirely positive outcome (eg, taking control over a situation, being finally saved or rescued)."

Men's and women's nightmares are very different, a study suggests.
Men's and women's nightmares are very different, a study suggests.   (Shutterstock)
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