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According to a new study, about one in 20 people experiences at least one nightmare every week. After controlling for PTSD and stressful life events, researchers found a high correlation between getting too much sleep (more than 9 hours) and having bad dreams.
“Nightmares happen during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a stage of sleep that occurs throughout the night, but more so in the latter half than in the first,” explains Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., a certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist based in Los Angeles, California and a member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board. “Given that sleeping longer extends REM sleep, it makes sense that would cause a person to experience more nightmares.” Occasional bad dreams are normal, Martin says, but you can lessen their frequency by not oversleeping—often a symptom of sleep deprivation, which is less likely to occur if you’re on a consistent schedule and not running a deficit, she notes.
“Give yourself some time to put the day to rest and settle into bed,” says Martin who suggests not scheduling anything within an hour of your target bedtime and aiming for seven to nine hours of shut-eye nightly.