"Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of patients coming for consultations related to stress-related insomnia has clearly increased," Dr Kazuo Sakai, an authority of stress who operates the Hibiya Clinic, tells Weekly Playboy (April 19).
Indeed, the stresses and strains of the prolonged coronavirus pandemic have clearly impacted on people's mental health, one result of which is a growing inability to sleep soundly.
"Insomnia may be one of the early symptoms of so-called 'corona depression,'" Sakai continues. "And among those whose slumber has been affected, a certain percentage are reporting more nightmares. This is creating a vicious cycle, with more sleep people get, the greater the burden on the mind and body."
Sakai pointed out that some years ago, the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) compiled by the American Psychiatric Association officially recognized nightmares as a type of sleep dysfunction.
"In Japan, however, most medical practitioners are unaware that nightmares may be considered a type of illness itself," he adds.
As a point of reference, Weekly Playboy surveyed three groups of 100 males in their 20s, 30s and 40s -- its main readership demographic.
The first question it posed was, "Do you have nightmares or scary dreams?" For those in their 20s, responses of "frequently" and "sometimes" came to 15 and 35, or exactly half of the respondents. For those in their 30s, the replies numbered 5 and 31, or 36%. And for the men in their 40s, the figure was 8 and 49, or 57%.
Broken down by the contents of the dreams -- for those who said they remembered them -- the top three in terms of the number of responses in all three age groups were dying in accidents (such as falling, traffic mishap, fires, etc); being attacked by a person, vicious animal or monster; and being killed by a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tsunami, or in a war.
Other nightmares, in descending order, included being in physical danger at another person's hands; being psychologically harassed or tormented by someone; and committing some sort of crime.
At the very bottom were nightmares connected to love or romance, such as breaking up with someone or being cheated on by a partner. These were named by five men in their 20s, four in their 30s and eight in their 40s.
An overwhelming majority of the survey subjects said the nightmarish situations in which they found themselves while slumbering had no relation to their own personal experiences.
Yu Hayashi, a professor at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine Human Health Sciences, tells the magazine, "One thing we can say for certain about dreams is that they are generated by the brain's neural activities during sleep, which means the brain possesses the potential to create such information. But because dreams aren't completely the same as our waking moments, at times we may dream of bizarre situations that are completely apart from the actual world or our real experiences."
According to Hayashi, the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep is almost entirely composed of dream activity.
"If we can find out how the brain conducts these activities, it will lead to understanding the role of dreams," he says.
The aforementioned Dr Sakai notes that such medications as Belsomra and DAYVIGO to treat insomnia have shown promise, but one of their side effects may be nightmares -- which is seems to be the case with most sleep medications.
"The worst contributing factor to nightmares, though, is consumption of alcohol," Sakai adds. "By imbibing of alcohol at a frequency akin to dependence can contribute to nightmares; but conversely, halting its regular consumption can also result in terrible nightmares. Heavy drinkers should be repeatedly warned about this."
Considering that we humans spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping, dreams, both good and bad, are certainly a topic deserving of further study.© Japan Today