Why do we have nightmares?
What about nightmares? Why do we see apocalypses and zombies, get chased, and other not-so-pleasant scenarios in our dreams? Swiss and American scientists held an experiment where they managed to find the answer to these questions. In their opinion, it’s a kind of training of the nervous system, which helps a person cope with negative emotions in real life. In their article, the scientists write that emotions we feel in dreams help us resolve emotional pressure and get a person ready for future possible stresses.
The scientists studied the activity of various parts of the brain during sleep using an electroencephalogram. 18 volunteers were woken up several times during the night and asked what dreams they were seeing and whether those dreams were nightmares. Thanks to their responses and analysis of brain activity, researchers have identified two areas of the brain that are responsible for nightmares. Those are the insula and the midcingulate cortex.
As interesting as it might sound, these 2 parts of the brain activate in the same situations when a person is feeling worried or gets scared in real life. The insula is responsible for evaluating emotions and starts up automatically as soon as a person feels anxiety. The midcingulate cortex prepares a person for an adequate response during the occurrence of a threat and controls the way a person behaves when in danger. In a further study, the scientists found that those who had nightmares for longer and more often reacted less harshly to negative things in real life.
So far, it’s become clear that the way our subconsciousness communicates with us and helps resolve issues is what makes us feel worried. For example, seeing a chase in your dreams is often associated with a person’s unsolved issues in real life, according to scientists. But as we mentioned above, dreams have been studied extremely insufficiently and many interesting insights are still waiting to be discovered.