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Title: Stress, trauma and personality correlates of nightmare frequency and nightmare distress
Author: Fisher, Samantha
Awarding Body: University of Wales, Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2006
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Four studies were conducted with the following samples a): people with frequent nightmares; b) people with sleep apnoea; c) fire-fighters and d) people with traumatic brain injury. Nightmare frequency was significantly elevated in these groups compared to the normal population. Correlations between nightmare frequency and various measures of psychopathology and individual differences were similar in size to those found in student samples. However, partialling out nightmare distress did not render nightmare frequency - psychopathology correlations negligible. Indeed, in the fire-fighters study, only one fire-fighter reported having a problem with nightmares. Nightmare frequency is thus not an artifact of nightmare distress in these samples. Defining nightmares as having to wake up the sleeper made no difference to between subjects correlations with the individual difference and psychopathology variables, and to within subjects correlations with state mood. However, requiring the dream to be very unpleasant as opposed to just moderately unpleasant to be classed as a nightmare did result in increased sizes of correlations. Within subjects correlations of pre-sleep mood with the presence/absence of a nightmare that night were small in comparison to between subjects analyses. Nightmares are thus more likely to be caused by general trait or long-term poor well being than by acute poor well-being. None of the individual difference variables assessed in this study predispose individuals to have nightmares under conditions of high anxiety or high depression. This was despite the individual difference variables in many cases having significant between subjects correlations with nightmare frequency. Ratings of PTSD correlated with nightmare frequency in individuals who had undergone repeated exposure to trauma (emergency service workers), and in individuals who had had one severe trauma (individuals with traumatic head injury). Despite sleep fragmentation there was no indication of cessation of dreaming in the patients with apnoea, but approximately one third of the participants with brain injury had complete cessation of dreaming. These results are discussed in terms of theories of nightmare formation, and of the continuity of waking and sleeping cognition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available