freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger Bad dreams – a sign something's wrong with your heath? | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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The Mail on Sunday‘s Roger Dobson has brought an interesting story to my attention today. It’s a report about a study from researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and published in the journal Sleep. And it says that people who have frequent nightmares (just 5.1 percent of us have one once a week, apparently – compared with the 85 percent of adults who only have one nightmare a year) are more likely to have health problems such as insomnia and mental health problems such as mood disorders.

Not just that, but the study suggests women are more likely to suffer from frequent bad dreams than men (6.2 percent of women have regular nightmares compared to 3.8 percent of men), as are people on low incomes, people who suffer from insomnia and ‘sleep-disordered breathing symptoms’ (by which I assume they mean things like sleep apnea), as well as those who suffer from ‘sleep-related daytime consequences’ (and again, I assume this means things like feeling sleep during the day or having trouble getting up in the morning).

In fact, they state that if you suffer from frequent nightmares, you are almost six times as likely to have a psychiatric disorder than someone who doesn’t have bad dreams. AND people who have regular nightmares are more neurotic too. Yikes.

This was something I hadn’t come across before, so I did a swift bit of research (okay, I admit, a bit of googling) to see what else was out there in terms of nightmares being associated with health problems. And there doesn’t seem to be much – but here goes:

• In an echo of the above just-published study, an Australian study, published in the journal Dreaming, dispelled the often-held belief that nightmares are the subconscious’s way of dealing with stress and other emotional problems. That’s because it found students who had bad dreams were more likely to be distressed about them and therefore more likely to suffer from general anxiety than others who slept without having nightmares.

• Bad dreams may be caused by going on the Atkins diet (or perhaps people who do Atkins are more susceptible to neuroticism in the first place? Sorry, Atkins lawyers, only joking). This was the result of a study carried out by University of Sydney researchers in 2006. Hmm, another good reason to eat carbs, if you ask me.
• Some drugs may cause nightmares – antidepressants, for instance, as well as barbiturates and narcotics, as well as the malaria drug Lariam. A 2008 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology discovered taking ketamine – an anaesthesia drug that’s also used recreationally on the club scene – produced more frequent and more unpleasant dreams (and from what I understand about it, taking ketamine can make you think you’re living in a nightmare – definitely a party drug to avoid).
• Of course there’s lots of stuff out there about eating too close to bedtime, or eating certain foods – cheese is a often-cited one, plus spicy foods – gives you bad dreams too. But I’m not too sure there’s much actual hard evidence on that subject.
I’m not sure what all that means for riskfactorphobes who are nightmare sufferers, all I can say is, sweet dreams (and hope for the best).