J. Allan Hobson, a renowned neuroscientist specializing in brain structure and dreams, has identified five common characteristics of dreaming in his book "The Dreaming Universe," as outlined below:
- Intense Emotions: Dreams often evoke powerful emotions, sometimes strong enough to awaken the dreamer.
- Illogical Content: Dreams defy logic, suspending the usual aspects of time, space, and even the laws of physics.
- Sensory Impressions: Dreamers experience sensory impressions, no matter how bizarre they may be.
- Uncritical Acceptance: Dreamers accept the strangest experiences as normal, even when they are illogical.
- Difficulty Remembering: Most dreams are challenging to recall unless recorded immediately upon waking.
Some individuals wake from dreams with a scream, finding it hard to return to sleep. Research suggests that nightmares are more likely to occur during the later stages of the night when REM sleep is most prolonged. Psychologists theorize that nightmares allow individuals to confront subconscious fears and problems they avoid during the day.
Common nightmare themes include falling, being chased, or being threatened. A study by psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann revealed that emotionally sensitive individuals, particularly those in artistic professions, tend to experience nightmares more frequently.
Hartmann's research also identified common traits among frequent nightmare sufferers. They often pursued artistic or unconventional careers, had turbulent personal relationships, and experienced difficulties during adolescence. Many sought psychotherapy at some point in their lives.
It remains unclear whether nightmares cause psychological issues or vice versa. However, studies have shown that depressed individuals experience longer periods of REM sleep, raising questions about the potential mental health implications of frequent nightmares.
In conclusion, whether dreams influence life or life influences dreams, approximately 11 percent of the population grapples with recurring nightmares. These episodes can leave the dreamer feeling powerless, as if facing overwhelming forces beyond their control.