Depression and insomnia could lead to more frequent nightmares

Symptoms of depression and insomnia are the strongest predictors of frequent nightmares, according to the findings of a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Turku in Finland and the Finnish National Institute of Health and Welfare.

The study, published in Sleep, aimed to both test whether factors previously associated with frequent nightmares could be reproduced in a large population sample and to examine whether any previously unreported associations exist.

“Our study shows a clear connection between well-being and nightmares,” says lead author Nils Sandman from the University of Turku. “This is most evident in the connection between nightmares and depression, but also apparent in many other analyses involving nightmares and questions measuring life satisfaction and health.”

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine define nightmares as “usually coherent visual dreams that seem real and get more disturbing as they unfold and cause you to wake up.” Nightmares often involve imminent physical danger and can provoke a range of negative emotions including anxiety, terror, embarrassment and disgust.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data taken from two independent cross-sectional surveys of the Finnish adult population conducted in 2007 and 2012. Questionnaire data were available for 13,922 participants aged 25-74 years and included nightmare frequency along with other items related to overall health and lifestyle.