Can People Alter Endings to Nightmares?

Can People Alter Endings to Nightmares?

Regardless of whether people are young or old, people still have nightmares whether they are 8 years old or 88 years old. Nightmares are a part of sleep, for better or worse. As far back as dreams have been studied, people have been associating their bad dreams with an assortment of factors like stresses of daily life, trauma, and various other items. But are all nightmares related simply to our day-to-day lives? Not necessarily. In fact, there are researchers who say that nightmares could be helpful to the survival of humans, in terms of making important decisions and serving as a redirection to more important issues in the personal lives of people. In fact, some neurologists are arguing that people can use different endings to dreams to determine solutions to traumatic times, as well as every-day problems, in their real lives.

So how can nightmares actually help people get through difficult times? According to Deirdre Bennett, a psychologist at Harvard, nightmares have probably remained a part of mankind for so long because they are helpful to human survival. “Nightmares probably evolved to help make us anxious about potential dangers,” Barrett said. “Even post-traumatic nightmares, which just re-traumatize us, may have been useful in ancestral times when a wild animal that had attacked you, or a rival tribe that had invaded might well be likely to come back.” This interpretation of dreams is intriguing as it offers a more holistic approach to thinking about dreams, even if those of prior generations had no knowledge of the science behind dreams. I believe generations of the past probably related the dreams to religious purposes as these generations had a higher dependency on religion and lower emphasis on science than society today. An interesting phenomenon that has begun to unravel recently with dreams is the power to potentially control at least the ending of the dream itself.


Can people really control their dreams? Link:

Perhaps partially taken from the plot of the movie Inception, Barrett also discussed the potential humans have to change the endings to their nightmares. “Some people prefer to fight off an attacker, some people would rather be rescued by someone else. Some want a realistic solution, for others, a metaphoric resolution is more satisfying.” She goes on to explain that analyzing a bad dream can help people see the correlation between that dream and the impact it can have on their day-to-day lives. So how can these “lucid dreamers” alter their dreams? According to a recent study, people who have a larger anterior prefrontal cortex are able to have lucid dreams. The correlation between the two stems from this part of the brain being responsible for self-reflection. Therefore, the correlation would make sense.

The problem with people claiming they are lucid dreamers is natural skepticism. Neurological studies can only go so far to show evidence that people really can have lucid dreams. Barrett argues that once people come up with the ending they desire, “they can rehearse this while awake and then at bedtime, to remind themselves that they want to have this ending, should the nightmare occur again.” At this point in neurologic studies, it is hard to determine how realistic lucid dreaming and dream-altering can be. But rest assured, this area will continue to be looked at over time and people could have some answers to this question over the next 10-20 years.


Melina, Remy. “Why Do We Have Nightmares?” LiveScience. LiveScience, 28 July 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

“People With This Special Quality Can Control Their Dreams – PsyBlog.” PsyBlog. PsyBlog, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

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7 thoughts on “Can People Alter Endings to Nightmares?

  1. Darcy Pacheco

    1. Once in a while I have nightmares when I go to sleep. When I do, I am usually very freaked out by the nightmare and have to take a few minutes to calm down. In your blog post, you mention that nightmares can actually help people get through difficult times. I find this interesting because I have always thought quite the opposite of this. The question I now have is what happens during a nightmare? According to Medical Daily, nightmares happen during the last third of the night when REM sleep is most prominent. During REM sleep, the amygdala (a part of the brain located in the frontal lobe) is what is behind a nightmare. The amygdala has high activity during REM and has the ability to produce fear-responses for the individual that is having the dream. This means that the brain controls not only your nightmare, but your response to the nightmare as well. If you would like to find out more information you can click on the link below!

  2. Gulianna E Garry

    Wow, I thought this topic of nightmares was really interesting. I never realized how nightmares could be causes from stress and anxiety; however, it makes perfect sense. The post of nightmares reminded me of the famous horror movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street. The movies focuses on Freddy Krueger, who haunts teenagers in their dreams which ultimately leads to their death in real life. After reading this blog, I was curious to see what inspired Wes Craven to create A Nightmare On Elm Street. This article explains how Wes Craven was inspired by a family who survived an attempted murder and then moved to the United States, however the youngest boy was still ‘haunted’ in his dreams by his attempted killer. I guess the creation of A Nightmare On Elm Street is just because of the stress of what this boy and his family had to overcome, which relates back to what you explained nightmares to come from!

  3. Rebecca Jordan Polaha

    Dreams are something that really catch my attention. I tend to have the same reoccurring nightmares, but one night the end of my dream changed and it caught me off guard. I have not had that dream since. I feel as though the only way you can actually change the end of your nightmare is by lucid dreaming. I have tried lucid dreaming before and failed. However, I do believe that some people are able to alter their dreams and nightmares for their benefit and I think that is really interesting.

  4. Alexander Roker

    I wrote a blog post last period about dreaming as well, and found similarly that nightmares are typically a result of stress of trauma. It is interesting to see that a biological difference, like a large part of the brain, can affect our dreams as well

  5. Xueyao Cao

    I never thought about the reasons behind nightmares and dreams before, I thought the topic was too abstract for science studies before, however, as I read your blog I found the conclusion that the study mentioned in your blog came up with is reasonable. The study mentioned that nightmare is a way to form anxious to potential danger and it is associated with real life. It is possible that nightmare helps the ancestor to interpret dangerous situation and keep them alert the whole time. The reason I think nightmares are hard to study is that, it is hard to form up an experimental study. There are also lack of technical support to interpret people’s dream. As the technology developed, people might come up with much effective methodology for researches.

  6. Delaney Ann Flynn

    I find dreaming so interesting and I wrote a post previously about lucid dreaming as well. I never considered the nightmare aspect of the idea. I like how you included that nightmares may exist as a form of survival. I always wondered if people who lucid dreamed regularly rehearsed the dream like you suggested or if it occurred spontaneously. Also, I think the endings that a person chooses for their nightmares, running away or fighting back, shows how different personalities react to stress or anxiety. It’s basically a psychological “fight or flight” response to imagination.

  7. Alexandra Nicole Iaccino

    I completely agree with your point that nightmares are usually a result of stress and trauma. I know that whenever I’m stressed and have anxiety over school work or any type of work, I tend to have nightmares. However, I am a little skeptical of the idea that you can change the ending of a nightmare. I thought this topic was really interesting and I did some research and found this article ( that goes further into the psychological component of nightmares and reiterates some points you made in your post, such as that nightmares can help you over come traumatic experiences.

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