Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 12:11 UK

Women 'more prone to nightmares'

Woman sleeping
Dreaming occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep

Women experience significantly more nightmares than men and have more emotional dreams, research suggests.

In a study of 170 volunteers asked to record their most recent dream, 19% of men reported a nightmare compared with 30% of women.

Researcher Dr Jennifer Parker of the University of the West of England said there was no difference in the overall number of dreams reported.

Other research has shown women tend to have more disturbed sleep than men.

One factor which has been linked to this is changes in a woman's body temperature during her monthly cycle.

Women's sleep tends to be more disrupted and they have more insomnia
Dr Chris Idzikowski, Edinburgh Sleep Centre

Dr Parker, a lecturer in psychology, said it has been known for a long time that pre-menstrual women report more vivid and disturbing dreams.

"The consistent finding in this research was that women report more unpleasant dreams than men."

Traumatic

Women taking part in the study were much more likely to report dreaming about very emotionally traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one.

She added: "In terms of processing emotional information, women may be more prone to taking unresolved concerns into their sleep life."

Dr Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre said he was not surprised the research showed a gender difference but what is difficult to pick out is whether women are having more nightmares or remembering them better.

"This fits in with what's in the literature.

"Women's sleep tends to be more disrupted and they have more insomnia.

"And more frequent wakening could cause them to pick up on the dream.

"But it could be that disturbed sleep is contributing to the fears."

He added that nightmares in everyone were probably more common than people realised as they are quickly forgotten about.




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