TechReducing nightmares with sound and positivity. The science behind innovative sleep therapies

Reducing nightmares with sound and positivity. The science behind innovative sleep therapies

Scientists have checked what can reduce the number of nightmares.
Scientists have checked what can reduce the number of nightmares.
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11:47 PM EST, January 17, 2024

The popular science website Science Alert highlights a study conducted by scientists and published in late 2022 in the research journal "Current Biology". The researchers focused on individuals plagued with nightmares, which predominantly occur during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. This is the phase of sleep during which most people experience swift eye movements, high brain activity, dreams, and irregular breathing patterns.

Reducing the frequency of nightmares

With no clear understanding of why or how our brains produce dreams, aiding those dealing with frequent nightmares proposes a significant challenge. Science Alert underscores the crucial role that high-quality sleep plays in the correct functioning of our bodies. Disorders triggered by nightmares can lead to a variety of health complications.

A group of 36 individuals participated in the study. Researchers discovered that combining two therapies, which utilize non-invasive strategies to manipulate thought patterns, could lower the incidence of nightmares. Participants were encouraged to depict their regular nightmares in a positive light. Subsequently, researchers suggested that, during sleep, volunteers mimic a sound associated with positive experiences.

The first of these techniques, Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT), has been employed for many years. However, it does not yield the same results for everyone. Those suffering from nightmares are asked to document their most frequent and horrifying dreams and then add a positive conclusion or twist the narrative to a positive tale. This modified, optimistic version of the dream is then retold.

During the study, volunteers maintained sleep diaries for two weeks. Then, the IRT technique was applied to their nightmares and they were divided into two groups. One served as a control group, while the other used a targeted memory reactivation (TMR) technique to establish a link between the positive narrative and the chosen sound. Each participant was given unique headbands with sleeping headphones. During the REM phase of sleep, when nightmares are most likely to occur, the headphones played a C69 piano chord every 10 seconds.

As reported by Science Alert, initial data indicated that the control group experienced an average of 2.58 nightmares per week and the group using TMR had an average of 2.94 nightmares per week. However, these figures decreased by the study's conclusion, with the control group noting approximately 1.02 nightmares per week and the TMR group only 0.19. Additionally, the TMR group reported an increase in the occurrence of pleasant dreams. After three months, the frequency of nightmares slightly increased in both groups to 1.48 and 0.33 nightmares weekly, respectively. Despite this minor uptick, scientists were pleased with the results, suggesting that applying two concurrent techniques yields superior outcomes.

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