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Five Unusual Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Nightmares

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Nightmares run the gamut from classic, like being naked in public, to obscure, like battling a terrifying pterodactyl inside a walnut shell (and you just know it’s a walnut shell somehow). What they have in common are that virtually everybody has them once in a while, and they can be just as unsettling as real-life horrors. Here are five weird facts you may not know about nightmares.

You can be diagnosed with "Nightmare Disorder"

Try not to let this one keep you up at night—nightmare disorder, or "sleep anxiety disorder," is a clinically diagnosable condition characterized by frequent, persistent nightmares that disrupt sleep. People with this condition can have nightmares so often that they may develop a fear of sleep, and can even have impaired functioning during the day. Depending on severity, treatment for nightmare disorder include relaxation-oriented therapies, medication, and...

Image Reversal Therapy (IRT) is one of the leading treatments for chronic nightmares

Image reversal therapy involves a patient recalling their nightmares in graphic detail with a therapist, changing the storyline with a positive ending and non-threatening imagery, and rehearsing the new version of the dream out loud repeatedly. The idea is that the positive spin will eventually make its way into the subconscious and help prevent nightmares as they’re happening. The research on this Inception-like method is overwhelmingly positive.

Some artists cite nightmares among their sources of inspiration

If you have creative leanings, there’s an obvious upshot to having nightmares: if you harness them, they can inspire works of art. Stephen King (cue shock and awe) and Salvador Dali are among the artists who’ve said they use nightmares as inspiration.

Fear may not be the leading negative emotion in nightmares

We tend to associate nightmares with fear, but according to one study, sadness, guilt, confusion, and disgust are more common emotional themes.

There may be a gender split in nightmare content

According to some studies, men are more likely to have nightmares about natural disasters and insects, whereas women’s nightmares more often involve sexual violence, the death of a loved one, or losing hair or teeth.

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