Never had a nightmare
November 8, 2009 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I've never had a nightmare.

Why? Is this normal? I can't fully account for when I was a small child, but in recent memory I cannot remember ever having had a nightmare, or even a truly disturbing dream. I've had exceptionally vivid dreams as well as the usual anxiety dreams of being naked or falling on rare occassions, but never anything close to nightmarish. Amongst my friends and family I can't find anyone else who has never had a nightmare. It feels weird.

Googling "never had a nightmare" shows I am not alone, I just wonder if there might be a cause, or an article or some sort of insight into this. I've had a normal-to-difficult life including problems with depression and anxiety and a fair share of waking problems, I can't think why I might be immune to having nightmares. Is there a cause, or am I just lucky? Any tips for inducing a nightmare? I guess I am coming from a view of nightmares being an accepted part of everyone's life, perhaps they aren't?

FWIW I'm not on any medications or diet, I drink moderately, no drugs, exercise daily, eat healthily. Slept in all sorts of environments home and abroad and no other sleep issues. Mid 30's.
posted by anonymous to Science & Nature (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I used to count myself in the "never had a nightmare" section until I started defining nightmares differently. I might never have had the traditional SCARY MONSTER OH NO nightmare, but I've had plenty of disturbing dreams where I get dumped or I get every table's order wrong or I have to dispose of the rotting corpe of a 12 inch tall horse, and they're certainly not good, so I'm going to count them under bad.

If you only have good dreams, then hooray for you.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:31 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm with Juliet. I have a wide variety of dreams, but how I define nightmare is probably different from the next person. Sometimes it can feel like a nightmare when I dream I oversleep, and miss something important, or dream that I'm unprepared for something. And sometimes, it can feel relatively normal to have a dream where someone is chasing me with a weapon.

Maybe you just have a higher tolerance for bothersome dreams?
posted by violetish at 6:41 PM on November 8, 2009

I used to have scary dreams when I was younger, but I definitely haven't had any in the past few years, probably from being so busy with school and other stuff.

Maybe your subconscious is more peaceful than everyone's. Be grateful =].
posted by kylej at 6:50 PM on November 8, 2009

I tend to define my nightmares as dreams that I have to wake myself up to get out of -- and sometimes, those aren't necessarily the "scary" ones. I often have dreams about serial killers (lots of blood), the world ending, and once, undead cats coming at me with knives. "Nightmares" to me are just dreams that are too stressful to handle -- and that could be that I'm taking a test I'm not prepared for or something else that's particularly mundane. Not necessarily anything terrifying.

So I guess it's just what you define as a "nightmare." I don't think this is anything to worry about.
posted by darksong at 6:52 PM on November 8, 2009

Have you ever had dreams where the events aren't terrifying in retrospect, but you were scared in the dream itself? Like Juliet Banana says, scary monster nightmares aren't the only ones, and they probably get overplayed when in reality plain old bad or not-good dreams are the norm.

Also, Juliet Banana, have you actually had a dream about disposing of a 12" horse corpse? Please say yes.
posted by invitapriore at 6:56 PM on November 8, 2009

I don't have monster nightmares (I can't think of ever having had one) but I've had dreams that unsettled me. I consider those to be nightmares. They are usually disaster-type dreams (house destroyed by tornado, parents dead, etc). And those, I've only had like 3 times total that I can remember.

So, yea, I think it's all in how you define it.
posted by cabingirl at 7:04 PM on November 8, 2009

I don't recall having a nightmare in the "as seen on tv monsters/etc' variety. Maybe when I was a little kid when things like being attacked by bears or monsters were in the realm of possibility, but as far back as I remember.

I did have a dream last week I was working on a project with Steve Ballmer and my old boss. I don't know what the project was but Steve got really pissed and started yelling at me when I pulled out my Macbook Pro. I mean what a potty mouth.

Most of my dreams are fun and silly and better than most things on TV or in my netflix queue. I wouldn't want a scary nightmarish dream just as I don't like that genre of film.
posted by birdherder at 7:38 PM on November 8, 2009

I have dreams a lot where nothing overtly terrible seems to be happening, but I still have a sense that something is very very wrong. Even when I'm just doing mundane, day to day things, if I have a pervasive sense of fear or discomfort, I consider that a nightmare.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:45 PM on November 8, 2009

Consider that you might just not remember your dreams. I don't have many nightmares either (a fact I credit at least partly to not exposing myself to vividly scary imagery in waking life). I don't think they're necessary, I think they indicate that the mind is stressed and trying to resolve something. So if you're not having them, as I generally don't, you're probably lucky, or perhaps very mentally healthy.

But I do notice that I don't remember my dreams well in general, even good ones. Something about the waking-up process erases them quickly. Every now and then, especially when traveling and sleeping in a different bed, I wake up with memories of dreams. I know I dream every night (we all do) but it's only rarely I remember anything.

The anxiety dreams I do have are the falling/trying to run and feel like I'm stuck in molasses/confused/ can't get things to work right variety. But I don't think anyone needs to have nightmares, or that not having (or remembering) them indicates anything wrong with you. Enjoy the fact that you aren't troubled by them!
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Count yourself lucky, I have almost nothing but nightmares.
posted by unixrat at 8:29 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

the usual anxiety dreams of being naked or falling

These aren't good dreams, they're bad dreams. Bad dreams = nightmares.
posted by hermitosis at 8:53 PM on November 8, 2009

A lot of my nightmares focus entirely on an overwhelming sense of anger/frustration. Anger that I can feel in every ounce of my body; once in a blue moon I will wake up from these dreams still angry/frustrated and can't talk about. Sometimes it will take me hours after waking to no longer be angry (which is difficult if I'm angry at my partner).
posted by rhapsodie at 9:25 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

The naked/falling dreams might be unpleasant, but I wouldn't put them on the same level as "A deranged gunman is chasing after me and I can only run in slow motion" or "There's a monster under my bed and I won't be able to get to the door before it attacks me."

I'm not sure why this is anonymous, but to the OP I ask, do you consider yourself to have an active imagination? Some people just have less colorful and vivid imaginations than others, so not having nightmares might merely be another variation of that. Some people are just wired differently, and this probably isn't much cause for concern.

Also, do you watch many horror/sci-fi/thriller type movies or shows? I'm sure a lot of the more fanciful nightmares people have are inspired by such. I'm curious if people who watch all these horror movies Hollywood keeps cranking out has a much higher tendency to have really bad nightmares.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:05 PM on November 8, 2009

I'm curious if people who watch all these horror movies Hollywood keeps cranking out has a much higher tendency to have really bad nightmares.

It's hard to put it down to this, because we've had really different lives and have different fears, but my BF watches a fair number of creepy/horror/zombie movies, and reads similar books, and when he describes his bad dreams I'm totally freaked out. I'm very glad that nothing has suggested that imagery to my head. Because I'm uncomfortable with watching that stuff for entertainment anyway, I just don't even have the imagery in my brain for the brain to call upon in moments of drama, and I'm glad of that. When he wakes up sweating with his heart racing, and describes some scary zombie scenario, I just want to say "Stop watching that shit." It definitely creates a mental library that the brain runs to when it wants to scare you bad.

When my brain wants to scare me bad, it just doesn't have those tools at hand. So it really doesn't get that crazy.
posted by Miko at 10:09 PM on November 8, 2009

I have nightmares regularly, although as Juliet pointed out they're not always about monsters. A sampling of past nightmares:

- someone with a gun breaking into my house
- being in a hotel while the entire city is flooding
- finding myself working at a grocery store
- trying to edit a manuscript and my keyboard won't type the letter 'e'

As you can see, the themes vary greatly, but what they have in common is a feeling of horror. The "mundane situation but I feel terror" nightmares are by far the most common.

I wouldn't be surprised if TV/Movies are an influence. I never watch horror or supernatural films and never have nightmares about Freddy Krueger / ghosts / devils, but I do watch crime procedurals and sometimes have nightmares about criminals.
posted by mmoncur at 10:22 PM on November 8, 2009

I think that simply disturbing, unsettling, creepy dreams are far, far more common than a full-blown nightmare or night terror. I think the Hollywood trope of someone suddenly sitting up in bed with a scream in the middle of the night is an exaggeration of reality; of course that happens, but I don't recall ever doing exactly that in my life.

All depends on your definition, though. I've had some truly frightening dreams of the slasher flick variety--someone's chasing me, or after me in some way. And I can recall about a half dozen or so times night terrors, in which I felt paralyzed and/or cried out in fear. But more common are the uneasy and perhaps depressing dreams involving more mundane subjects.
posted by zardoz at 10:44 PM on November 8, 2009

"Nightmare", for me, isn't about content but about perceived creepiness. One could be quite happy with a being naked dream, or totally freak out about it.
Sometimes precisely nothing happens in a dream, but there is that feeling of foreboding, you know, the knowledge that a bunch of gangsters are around the corner waiting to get you (naked or not).
(for the record, I only have nightmare-feel dreams during periods when I am under much external pressure for a long stretch of time. It also happens more often when there has been a very nice and copious dinner)
posted by Namlit at 2:10 AM on November 9, 2009

Nightmares are not the norm. Pleasant dreams are. So, maybe I'm missing something here - but why are you concerning yourself with not being terrorized in your sleep. IANYT but such things need to be viewed as blessings and to be thankful for.
posted by watercarrier at 2:53 AM on November 9, 2009

To take Namlit's comment to the next level - once upon a time I had a dream where I was in a pit fighting a bear. I managed to strangle the bear but as I get up from its body I have this, "Oh, are those my intestines?" moment and I fall to the ground. Things slowly fade to black and, at the moment of my death, I wake up feeling well rested and serene.

Was that a nightmare?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:50 AM on November 9, 2009

I've never had a nightmare, either. I used to attribute it to the fact that my father let me watch horror movies when I was really, really young and I had this weird notion in my head that anything I could imagine I was automatically immune from. So, beheadings, falling out of airplanes, impaled on pikes, arms eaten by zombies… automatic immunity. This is, naturally, a self-fulfilling theory, since I couldn't possibly imagine something that I hadn't imagined (Q.E.D.).

I also have narcolepsy, and can enter into REM sleep in about 2 minutes, so I have probably had five or ten times as many dreams as the average person my age. One of the things that has probably helped is I've always been able to control my dreams. There have been times when I've been dreaming and felt like it was going the wrong way, so I would just change the circumstances.

That said, there have been dreams that I wouldn't inherently categorize as nightmares but were still reflections of inner anxieties. For instance, I've had dreams where some of my teeth would fall out; it was more irritating than terrifying, so while not technically a nightmare, certainly not night-pleasant, either.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:33 AM on November 9, 2009

You asked about inducing nightmares. I tend to have a much higher likelihood of having a nightmare if I go to bed without, erm, emptying my bladder first. For me, the correlation is reliable enough that I have wondered if nightmares are my body's way of waking itself up so I can take care of its business...

Nthing that nightmares are generally not pleasant. Don't say you weren't warned.
posted by violinflu at 5:41 AM on November 9, 2009

I've heard for years that the majority of our dreams are forgotten immediately as you awake, I know that if I have a dream after another, I can't remember the first dream.
posted by LindaLou21356 at 3:35 AM on November 10, 2009

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