Nightmares are a common problem that affects many people. Not only do they disturb sleep, but they are also linked to other health issues such as anxiety and poor-quality sleep. Researchers have been investigating ways to help reduce the frequency and severity of nightmares, and a recent study suggests that non-invasive techniques can help manipulate emotions in dreams to reduce the number of negative dreams.

Imagery Rehearsal Therapy

One non-invasive method that can help reduce the frequency and severity of nightmares is imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT). In this therapy, patients rewrite their nightmares to give them a happy ending. Then, they “rehearse” telling themselves the rewritten story to overwrite the nightmare. However, this treatment is not effective for all patients.

Targeted Memory Reactivation

A recent study conducted on 36 patients diagnosed with a nightmare disorder showed that combining IRT with targeted memory reactivation (TMR) can reduce the frequency of bad dreams. TMR aids in boosting the memory of a certain stimulus by playing sounds that people associate with that stimulus while they are sleeping. In the study, participants were given a sleep headphone headband that played a positive sound associated with their rewritten nightmare every 10 seconds during REM sleep when nightmares were most likely to occur.

The study found that after two weeks, the group that underwent both IRT and TMR had a significant reduction in the frequency of nightmares, and the frequency continued to decrease after three months without any treatment. Additionally, the TMR group reported an increase in happy dreams. The researchers believe that using TMR to support IRT results in a more effective treatment.

The study’s findings are promising and suggest that non-invasive techniques can help reduce the frequency and severity of nightmares. Researchers hope that their findings will lead to the development of new therapies to help those suffering from nightmares.


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