I’m a dreamer. Have been for most of my life. I dream pretty much every night. It’s more unusual for me to have a night that I don’t dream.
Most of the time, this is great. Dreams have been a source of inspiration and creativity. But there are also times when I’ve had lots of nightmares. Harrowing ones. And those are the times when being someone who dreams is no fun.
The worst nightmares completely seem to ruin the following day. I always thought it was in my head — but no matter how hard as I tried, I couldn’t quite shake those bad feelings. They just seemed to linger with me. I was frazzled for pretty much the entire next day — until the following night’s sleep would sweep in and reset the mood a bit. (Hopefully for the better.)
I used to think this lingering unease the day following a nightmare was just me. Just another sign that I am a very sensitive person (because truthfully, I am). But it turns out that this pattern might not be all that unusual.
Nightmares Can Bring Increased Stress & Decreased Mood & Health the Following Day
A recent study found that when people had nightmares, it resulted not only in decreased mood and health the following day but also an increased physiological response to stress.
Yeah, really. For the study, participants not only filled out a dream diary as well as reports of how they felt the following day, the researchers also obtained saliva samples from the participants to test them for free cortisol and alpha amylase, providing physiological evidence of stress response.
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.