It sucks when your sleep is ruined by a bad dream so terrifying that it jolts you awake. But the next time that happens to you, take heart in knowing that nightmares are good for you.
At least that’s what some people believe.
New York Magazine’s human behavior-focused site Science of Us recently posted a video titled, “The Good Side of Bad Dreams.” According to this animated video, some sleep researchers believe that nightmares are cathartic, providing an emotional release of anxieties and stress from the waking world.
“The things that concern us most while we're awake continue to mess with us when we sleep,” the video’s narrator explains. He continues, “Your unconscious brain takes your abstract fears and turns them into stories in the form of nightmares.”
Basically, your unconscious brain takes your nebulous fears and turns them into nightmarish stories.
The narrator continues, “Memories are easier for the human mind to deal with than vague anxieties about the world around us. A memory might make you feel bad, but your brain thinks of it as something in the past, and, therefore, something you don’t need to panic about in the present.”
So nightmares are beneficial because they help distance you from your fears.
Psychotherapist Dr. Alex Lukeman agrees that, after your freaky dreams make you wet the bed, you should be thankful for your nightmares. “They are a gift not a curse,” he says. “The nightmare is a way for our unconscious mind to get our conscious, waking attention.” He continues explaining, “They aren't bad in themselves - they may be disturbing to us, but once we understand how to work with them, they can be a valuable and practical resource.”
Unfortunately, in order to gain that understanding, you have to buy Dr. Lukeman’s book, Nightmares, How to Make Sense of Your Darkest Dreams.
Although some researchers assert that bad dreams are actually good for you, I’ll take a cool dream about flying around in a spaceship over a nightmare any day.
WebMD says that “one out of every two adults has nightmares on occasion. And between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.” Do you have nightmares? And, if so, how often? Share your night terrors with us by leaving a comment below.