The key to getting back to sleep for those with “nightmare disorder,” which has been officially diagnosed, is learning to switch out negative dreams for more uplifting ones.
However, this technique, known as visual rehearsal therapy, is ineffective for over one-third of patients.
According to a recent study, listening to upbeat music as you sleep lessens the likelihood of nightmares.
“This new development shows promise. According to Timothy Morgenthaler, MD, in an interview with CNN, “It does appear that adding a well-timed sound during REM sleep augments the efficacy of image rehearsal treatment, which is a standard and possibly one of the most effective non-pharmacologic therapies at this moment.
The current recommendations on nightmares from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine were written by Morgenthaler, who was not involved in this most recent study.
According to the latest study, nightmares are “the sensation of intensely unpleasant feelings, typically occurring during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. They involve violence, interpersonal conflict, and failure-related ideas and imagery, as well as negative emotions including fear, wrath, and despair. Having these kinds of dreams so regularly that they “significantly distress or impair in social, occupational, or other vital areas of functioning” are considered to be symptoms of nightmare disorder.
According to the authors, nightmare condition can last for decades if untreated.
36 individuals with nightmare condition participated in the Swiss study. All 36 took part in a daytime imagery rehearsal therapy course where they learned how to transform their nightmares into happy dreams. In order to practise their “rewritten dream” during the day, participants were instructed to recall a nightmare, alter the negative plot line in favour of a more uplifting one, and then practise it.
Along with practising conceptualising their new, optimistic dreams, half of the participants were also treated to a distinctive sound. The sound was played throughout their REM cycles at night for the next two weeks as they slept.
There were noticeably fewer nightmares reported by those who heard the sound.
The authors stated that “this difference demonstrated a medium to large effect size and was durable at the 3-month follow-up.”
They did observe that both groups improved, which is probably because the instruction on turning nightmares into happy dreams is known to be successful. The authors did acknowledge that additional factors might have played a role in a way that their study design could not have anticipated.
The outcome ought to be repeated, according to Morgenthaler. I admit that I was a little giddy about the new opportunity.