The reason why you may have more frequent nightmares could have something to do with your personality, according to a new study.
New research published in Sleep Science found that individuals with heightened emotional reactivity – or neuroticism – tend to experience more nightmares and more nightmare distress than others.
The authors of the study — Michael Schredl and Anja S. Goeritz — said their aim was to “examine the contribution of socio-demographic variables, nightmare frequency, and neuroticism to global nightmare distress.”
For the study, researchers had 2,492 men and women complete an online survey where the researchers measured nightmare frequency, global nightmare distress, and personality traits, both currently and in childhood. Researchers also had participants’ personalities observed using the NEO-Five-Factor Inventory, which measures personality factors like neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
The study found that about 9% of respondents said they had weekly nightmares, while 18% said they had nightmares weekly in their childhood. A little over a quarter of participants said their nightmares often mirrored the events of their reality.
In terms of personalities, neuroticism was most strongly associated with the frequency of nightmares and recurrent nightmares.
However, personalities such as openness to experience and conscientiousness also showed correlations, according to the study. Women were found to have more nightmares and nightmare distress compared to men.
“The findings of the present study clearly implicate that nightmare distress is not only related to nightmare frequency but also to other factors like neuroticism, recurrent nightmare topics, gender, and age,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Kyle Schnitzer is a staff reporter for Ladders.