A new study now finds that nightmares help the brain prepare to handle stressful situations. A US government funded study saw researchers from switzerland and the US subject 18 people to an experiment where they were fitted with electrodes to monitor their brain activity at night. The volunteers were woken multiple times and were made to answer the question, "Did you dream? And, if so, did you feel scared?" reported Daily Mail.
The study, which was partly funded by the National Institutes of health and published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, helped researchers identify how nightmares light up the brain in real time. According to the report, researchers found a pattern. They said that during nightmares, they saw an increased activity in regions of the brain that control emotions.
The study authors conducted a second experiment where they gave 89 people a dream diary to fill out for a week. At the end, each person was given an MRI scan, while they were shown negative and scary images. The report added that the second study helped understand the psychological or physiological impact nightmares had on brains. Study authors came to the conclusion, that, to an extent, nightmares were actually beneficial, and helped steel people from stressful experiences.