Experiencing a nightmare can be a stressful experience, it isn’t just a bad dream but can actually be a sign of something more serious.
If you have been frequently experiencing nightmares, a new study suggests, you may be having having some serious mental health issues.
Psychologists at the University of Turku conducted a study which involved analyzing the Finnish National Finrisk surveys of about 71,000 participants, conducted every five years in a 40-year period (1972 to 2012).
Previously, in 2001, a study of the Finnish National Finrisk revealed that nightmares can increase the risk of suicide. However, the research team of the study wanted to re-evaluate the finding because it didn’t consider that the data used in the study contained war veterans which may have influenced the results.
In the recent study, the 3,139 war veterans included were compared with the general population and it was found that they experience more nightmares than the other group. However, their suicide risk was not shown to be stronger. Nils Sandman, author of the study, said, “The results of the original study were vindicated and now we have a more reliable understanding that nightmares increase, albeit slightly, risk for suicide.”
The study explains nightmares as “intensive dreams with negative emotional tone”. It was also revealed in the study that experiencing nightmares frequently can actually increase the risk for mood disorders and suicide to both the general population and the World War II veterans.
Sandman said, however, that there are limitations to the study. He said that the research team did not have any data about the themes or contents of the nightmare which would have provided them a more precise analysis.
Furthermore, the study team also found that women were found to have more nightmares, and men had a higher risk for suicide.
The psychologists also noted that although there are other stronger risk for suicide, nightmares are a “potentially modifiable risk factor”.
There is mounting evidence that nightmares are related to many problems of well-being. In the future they should receive more clinical attention as they might have value as an early warning sign of more serious problems.