The word “nightmare” derives from the Anglo-Saxon word mare, meaning demon—which is related to the Sanskrit mara, meaning destroyer, and mar, meaning to crush.
The word “dream” is most likely related to the West Germanic draugmus, (meaning deception, illusion, or phantom) or from the Old Norse draugr (ghost, apparition) or the Sanskrit druh (seek to harm or injure).
The average person has about 1,460 dreams a year. That’s about four per night.
Most of us dream every 90 minutes, and the longest dreams (30-45 minutes) occur in the morning.
Vitamin B complex (B6) and St. John’s Wort have been shown to produce more vivid dreams.
Nicotine patches and even melatonin (an over-the-counter sleep aid) are reported to increase the vividness of dreams and nightmares.
Chronic smokers who suddenly quit report more vivid dreams than they had when they smoked.
During REM sleep, the flow of blood to the brain increases, as does the brain’s temperature.
Researchers at New York University suggest that wakefulness and REM sleep are essentially similar brain states, differing only in the extent to which they are shaped by sensory stimuli from the outside world.
Even the occasional use of alcohol can have a significant impact on sleep and dreaming. Alcohol slows activity in the cortex, which causes a person to sink into a deep, slow-wave sleep rather than experiencing REM sleep.
The quality of dreams depends, at least in part, on the stage of sleep in which the dreams occur. Dreams during REM tend to be more bizarre and detailed and have story line. Dreams in stages 1 and 2 of sleep are simpler and shorter.
“Old Hag Syndrome”, or sleep paralysis, occurs in as many as 40% of all people. It happens when a sleeper wakes, recognizes his or her surroundings but is unable to move for as long as a minute.
Common dream motifs that transcend cultural and socio-economic boundaries include falling, flying, nakedness in public, and unpreparedness.
When deprived of dreams, individuals become irritable and disoriented, hallucinate, and show signs of psychosis.
In general, pregnant women remember dreams more than other populations. This is largely due to the extreme hormonal changes during pregnancy.
Those who watched black-and-white television as youngsters tend to have more monochrome dreams than children who watched color television.
Modern studies show that children have more animal dreams than adults.
Childhood dreams are shorter than adult dreams and nearly 40% of them are nightmares, which may act as a coping mechanism.