Many explanations have arisen to explain why one has a nightmare, whether it be a message being sent, just bad luck, or just a bad sandwich. Although the topic remains open, in this experiment Scientific AmeriKen explores the possibility that nightmares might actually serve a useful purpose. Namely, that nightmares might be a method by which the body increases the heart rate of a sleeping individual and ultimately causes a return to consciousness. The idea stems from a nap Scientific AmeriKen was enjoying when a cat decided to jump atop the stomach - the result of which induced a nightmare that seemed to rationalized the action of the cat - and now awake, allowing Scientific AmeriKen to "deal" with said cat. Thus the purpose of this experiment will be to take this experience one step further and explore the possibility that given the right circumstances, a nightmare can be induced.

After speculating upon this possibility for several years, Scientific AmeriKen suspects multiple stimuli have the possibility of inducing a nightmare, such as a room that is too hot, a loud unexpected sound, snoring, and a wife made angry by snoring, and others. It is the hypothesis of this experiment that limbs left outside the covers in direct line of an air conditioning unit will induce a nightmare.

This experiment was carried out in two stages - the first was taking a dream log of all nightmares and attempts to write down any possible circumstances surrounding the nightmare. For this part of the experiment a pen and paper or cell phone notepad was required. It is noted that the details should be written immediately upon waking as dreams are strangely easily forgotten.

In the second phase of the experiment an air condition was used. Feet were left outside the covers and the feet were nearly in a direct line of the air flow from the device. Sleep was then attempted and notes to be written following waking up.

Dream/nightmare logs were taken in the two months leading up to the attempt to induce a nightmare. It is noted that melatonin supplementation (5 mg/nightly) during the first month of this phase may have increased the rate as most dreams/nightmares were recorded during the first month. We also note that several dreams (quite a few actually) were not recorded as they were quickly forgotten.

Nightmares during this phase include:

Dream: "Child sounding so far far away... But can't get to him" - Possible cause: he is calling me from his bedroom

Dream:- "Classic dream of having trouble/difficulty giving a public speech" - Possible cause: Time to wake up to go to work

Dream: Forgotton - Possible cause: Kid wakes me up at 3 AM asking for water.

Dream:-"Wife has salacious rumors about someone she knows who is having an inproper relationship - I start believing it is one of my friends and was worried about telling her"- Possible cause: Kid attacks me in the early morning

Dream: "Was resting in a tent thing when I start hearing something walking outside, then a gnome sticks its head inside the tent"-- Possible cause: wife was walking around the bed

Dream: "Was hosting the Queen of England in our house along with my mom and dad, but I was younger. I was in my pajamas as I was telling her what I do with my science - but she had no reaction to it." Possible cause: Kid woke me up to celebrate father's day.

Wife's Dream: "Someone was making forged scandalous tapes and husband was blaming wife for it, but then wife checked it out and it wasn't her at all and was then super mad at husband" - Possible Cause: woke up because it was very hot because husband turned off AC and did not put fan on and wife was angry.

Dream: "Was in an MMA fight against an Amazon warrior lady - it was mostly a set up fight, but I still had to make it look real. In any case I was doing really well until I was punched in the face and woke up." Possible cause: No reason was found for the dream, but I was aware that I needed to wake up early.

Dream: "Was in a hidden room behind a false wall as somebody was rustling outside - so I quietly started searching for the hidden room within the hidden room."
Possible cause:
When I awoke there was a bitey kitten walking around on the bed.

Next an attempt was made to induce a nightmare. Time to nightmare was not recorded but believe to be approximately 2-3 hours. It was noted that following the nightmare the feet were ice cold but still remained functional. The nightmare is as follows:

"Was driving along through a tunnel with the kid in the back of the car - Then a crazy guy drops down on the windshield staring at me (image below)-- he quickly enters through the passenger window then starts choking me -- I keep trying to drive to keep from crashing during this when I start feeling like I am having a heart attack. I try to tell the assailant that so we don't crash but then I wake up and my feet are frozen! The assailant looked like Regis Philbin or Bob from Twin Peaks"

The data seem to suggest the hypothesis was proven correct and nightmares can be induced. Although this experiment should be repeated, Scientific AmeriKen has no desire to confront Bob from twin peaks ever again. However, if this is true, one possible reason for nightmares is that they evolved to rouse a sleeping individual to deal with a potential threat. Aside from the possibility that nightmares can be caused or that certain environmental factors increase the risk of a nightmare, the experiment had several other interesting findings. These include the possibility that melatonin supplementation possibly increases dreaming, that dreams are so easily forgotten, and that dreams/nightmares happen at very quickly in the sense that a dream that seems to last minutes may have actually occurred in a second or two. Although there may be many causes of nightmares, these findings might be useful to reduce the risk of nightmares by making sure rooms are kept at proper temperatures and that one sleeps in an isolated chamber away from jumpy bitey cats.

Thoughts or comments about this experiment? Visit Science Chat Forum to join the discussion!


Return to the issue cover! View experiments from the last 23 years! Learn more about this webzine today! Grab great gear with our sweet sauce logo!! Donations make the world go round... and make ScientificAmeriKen epically stronger!  Beware! Click here to receive notifications for future experiments or product lines!