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Nightmares? Try dream therapy

Dream therapy could show a way out of recurring nightmares, according to a new study.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 30, 2009 15:01 IST

Dream therapy could show a way out of recurring nightmares, according to a new study.

The previously discredited approach is drawing the interest of clinicians, because it can treat nightmares by training the victims to dream lucidly, so they can consciously wake up.

Lucid dreaming -- when you are aware you are dreaming -- is a state between sleeping and being awake. It creates distinct patterns of electrical activity in the brain similar to the patterns made by psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia.

The links between lucid dreaming and psychotic conditions offers potential for new therapeutic routes based on how healthy dreaming differs from unstable mental states.

Unstable states comprise neurological and psychiatric disorders, according to the findings of a European Science Foundation (ESF) workshop.

New data affirms the connection by showing that while dreaming lucidly, the brain is in a dissociated state, according to Ursula Voss from the University of Frankfurt.

"In the field of psychiatry, the interest in patients' dreams has progressively fallen out of both clinical practice and research," said Silvio Scarone, of Università degli Studi di Milano in Milan.

"Basic dream researchers could now apply their knowledge to psychiatric patients with the aim of building a useful tool for psychiatry, reviving interest in patients' dreams," continued Scarone.

"Neuroscience investigators could explore how to extend their work to psychiatric conditions, using approaches from sleep research to interpret data from acute psychotic and dissociated states of the brain-mind.

"Exposure to real threatening events supposedly activates the dream system, so that it produces simulations that are realistic rehearsals of threatening events in terms of perception and behaviour," said Scarone.