Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Acting Out Dreams: Fear and Laughing

A new study shows that healthy young adults are likely to report dream-enacting behaviors. The results were published today in the journal Sleep.

The Canadian
study involved 1,140 first-year college students. About two-thirds of participants were women. They responded to different types of questions about dreaming.

One group answered questions that described specific types of dream-related behavior. Results show that 98 percent reported experiencing one of these behaviors at least “rarely” in the last year.

“Fear” was the most common behavior subtype. Ninety-three percent reported that they had felt signs of fear in their body after waking from a scary dream.

But not all dreams were frightening. Seventy-two percent reported smiling or laughing while waking from a happy dream.

Sexual arousal also was common. Seventy-eight percent reported that they had felt sexually aroused after waking from an erotic dream. This was more common in men than in women.

Each of the other behavior subtypes was reported by more than 50 percent of participants. They woke from a dream to find that they were talking, crying, punching or kicking, or making other motions such as waving or pointing.

Some of the behaviors were more common in women. They reported more fear, smiling and laughing, talking, and crying than men.

Lead author Tore Nielsen, PhD, noted that these were “normal” behaviors. They were unlike the extreme actions that occur when a person has
REM sleep behavior disorder.

People with RBD act out vivid, action-packed dreams while remaining asleep. They may shout, punch, kick, run and even jump out a window. Injuries may occur to the dreamer or a bedpartner. Vigorous or violent episodes typically occur about once a week.

In contrast, the dream-related behaviors reported in the study were less intense. And they tended to be rare, occurring only once or twice a year.

“Normal episodes are usually extremely mild,” Nielsen told the AASM.

Read more blog posts about
REM sleep behavior disorder. Learn more about dreaming.

Image by Krisztina Tordai

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