Study probes nightmares and religion link


Researching are hoping to uncover if death anxiety feeds nightmares. Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

The role of religion, a fear of dying and nightmares is being investigated by scientists hoping to improve sleep therapies.

The first-of-its-kind study to be carried out at UWA was launched earlier this month, and it tackles the relationship between dreams and if people of religious faith are less likely to have dreams about death.

University of Sydney clinical psychologist Dr Rachel Menzies says that this study will help psychologists understand how sleep and dreaming effects mental health.

“This is essential for us to improve current treatments for sleep-related issues, as well as broader mental health issues,” Dr Menzies said.

Dr Menzies says people who have severe anxiety are at higher risk of experiencing frequent nightmares, which will result in poor sleeping patterns.

Some people dread falling asleep at night and may avoid doing it as much as possible because they’re afraid of having distressing dreams, Dr Menzies said.

Researchers are looking further into ‘death anxiety’ and how it affects a person’s dreams and their sleep quality.

“A lot of research has shown that the more someone is anxious about death, the more anxious they are generally,” Dr Menzies said.

Sleep physician Dr David Cunnington says that having a religious faith may also have a role in reducing nightmares.

“There’s work that suggests that people who are more spiritual and have a religious belief have better health and better health outcomes,” Dr Cunnington said.

Dr Cunnington says that this study will improve how psychologists, especially sleep psychologists, help their clients.

“It’s a missing piece in how I talk to people about their dreams and how that might interact with other areas of their health,” He said.

The research team hopes that this study will result in more accurate treatments and improve the overall sleep quality of clients.

The so-called ‘dream team’ have constructed an anonymous online questionnaire open to the Australian public.

“I think we would love as many people to take part as possible… this is really a groundbreaking study,” Dr Menzies said.

The research team invite all Australians aged over 18 to fill out the 20-minute online survey, found on this link: Dream Team Study.