Scientists have found an incredible trick against nightmares

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Waking up sweating and dazed from nightmares isn’t the best way to start the day. Dreams remain a rather mysterious subject – several theories try to explain their reason for being but there is not yet a definitive answer.

However, if they are chronically repeated, nightmares can really cause suffering in the people who are victims of them. In 2022, there is for people who have chronic nightmares above all a type of treatment: image repetition therapy.

A “positive” piano note during the REM sleep phase against chronic nightmares

The idea is to ask the patient to describe their nightmare immediately after waking up (the memory of the dreams fades quickly thereafter). With the help of a practitioner, the patient will then attempt to redirect the outcome of the dream towards a more positive outcome. If this treatment works, a third of patients do not respond to it.

This is why researchers have tried to find another way to redirect dreams to a more positive outcome in another way. A team has just published an exciting paper in the scientific journal Current Biology. They present a brand new method, which is based on a treatment already experienced with patients in a clinical setting, in addition to image repetition therapy.

Concretely, it involves associating a sound with a positive outcome, then replaying the same sound during the paradoxical sleep phase where dreams and nightmares occur. The problem with these treatments was precisely that they involved the help of a practitioner and clinical management. As a result, they taught about twenty subjects to carry out this combination of treatments themselves, alone, in the comfort of their homes.

These 18 subjects (divided into a control group and a group participating in the experiment) had to perform daily “auto-sessions” lasting 5 minutes each day for 5 days. The researchers specifically used a neutral piano note as the positive sound. A series of instruments capable of analyzing eye movements had to be placed on the patients’ faces every night.

As soon as the system detected the entry into the REM sleep phase, the subjects were exposed to the piano note associated with the positive experience. Note repeated at 10 second intervals. And the results are very promising. The group that participated in the experiment reportedly had 5 times fewer nightmares than the control group, with many patients claiming to have experienced more positive sensations than the other.

And the effect persisted well beyond the 15 days of experience – since the positive effects were maintained until the end of the 3-month medical follow-up. According to the researchers, using this combined treatment, while letting patients do it themselves at home, after a few sessions, would be the key for many subjects against chronic nightmares.

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