New Study Probes Relationship Between Religious Beliefs, Nightmares, and Anxiety

Australian academics are examining if religion and spirituality have an impact on dreams and whether religious persons are less prone to have nightmares and death-related dreams.

The University of Western Australia (UWA), which is in charge of the study, will also look into whether bad dreams make people feel anxious during the day.

Ian Dunican, who was in charge of the study and is an associate senior research fellow at UWA’s Centre for Sleep Science, said that part of the reason for the research question was that Australia is becoming less religious.

Nearly 40% of Australians said they had “no religion” in the 2021 Census, compared to less than 7% in 1971.

“As religion and spirituality have become less important in the world, or as we have less faith in them, is that making people more worried about death?” Dr Dunican said.

“What about the other way around?

“Will these practices really help the people who do them feel less anxious and have fewer nightmares?”

The study is also being done by people from the University of Sydney and Monash University.

Research Builds on Pandemic Findings

According to Dr. Dunican, the effort will draw on research by Hailey Meaklim of Monash University, who discovered that people had an increase in death-related dreams during the pandemic.

“More people had dreams about dying or about loved ones who had died,” he said.

“And that made people anxious during the day, which affected how well they slept and how much they slept the next night.”

He said that the UWA study would be the first to look into the link between nightmares, worry, not being able to sleep, and how well you sleep.

Dream Research is Challenging

Dr. Dunican said that the study of dreams didn’t get much attention because it was hard to do.

“Once we remember something we did while we were asleep, it’s hard for us to deal with,” he said.

“And it is very hard for people to… the next morning to remember, and it’s open to bias and could even be made up.”

He hoped that the study would lead to results that could help people in the neighborhood sleep better and live better lives.

Researchers want anyone in Australia who is 18 or older to take part in a 20-minute online poll without giving their name.

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