Women have more nightmares than men
February 2nd, 2009 ·
A brilliant five year study has made a significant contribution to scientific dream research.
The research with 193 volunteers has found that women have more nightmares than men.
Jennifer Parker, who lead the study at the University of the West of England, said, “To discover more about women’s dreams I asked participants in my project to fill out a structured dream diary. The evidence was collected in a very different way to that used in previous dream analysis projects that largely depended on recall after the dream has happened. The participants in my study were all primed to record their dreams before the dreams happened. I took a sample of 100 women and 93 men. They were aged between 18 and 25 and were predominantly Year 1 Psychology students at UWE.”
“..it appears that men and women differ in the frequency of nightmares - women have more - and women perceive those nightmares to be more emotionally intense..”
“I believe these results show that women carry over their waking concerns into their dream life more so than men do, and they appear to have more difficulty with ’switching off’ their concerns.”
The University of the West of England is the only UK university to hold verified data for British student’s dream content.
We are excited about the research because the findings support the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming. The expectation fulfilment theory, proposed by Irish psychologist Joe Griffin in 1993, predicts the finding that women suffer more nightmares than men, since women suffer twice as much depression than men.
The theory states that worries (expectations in the autonomic nervous system) are de-aroused during dreaming, which is nature’s stress reducing mechanism for unacted out expectations. If women ruminate more about their feelings during the day, it would make sense that they experience more dreams to dearouse these stresses and that many of these would be anxiety dreams or nightmares. Too much dreaming in the REM state exhausts the motivation circuit in the brain and can induce depression when people wake up feeling exhausted and more tired than when they went to bed.
To find out more about depression and dreaming please visit the lift-depression.com website, and read the section on sleep and depression.
To find out more about the expectation fulfilment theory you can go to the why we dream website or watch some youtube clips of Joe Griffin explaining the biology of the dream theory, and how the theory fits existing data about dreaming more other competing theories.
The theory is published in a book Dreaming Reality, how dreaming can keep us sane or drive us mad.carried out the study over three years.