Nightmares and homeostasis: When bad dreams fail to protect HPMood from anxiety
A genetically fixed, object-free, positive mood, defined as homeostatically protected mood, is the dominant influence for individuals evaluating generalized questions designed to measure subjective wellbeing. A core characteristic of subjective wellbeing is the stability of homeostatically protected mood. Under normal conditions, a process known as homeostasis defends mood from threat by accessing internal and external buffers. Consequently, the system typically maintains SWB scores around 75% ± 2.5. However, under extreme conditions, the system fails to regulate itself and homeostatic breakdown occurs resulting in subjective wellbeing falling below its normal range. Heightened anxiety threatens homeostatically protected mood. This study is the first to explore the relationship between bad dreams, nightmares, and anxiety in the context of homeostasis theory. Specifically, if homeostasis enlisted bad dreams as additional cognitive buffers to protect mood. In addition, the study investigated the presence of nightmares as possible evidence of homeostatic breakdown. Participants (n = 487) completed an online questionnaire to measure components of subjective wellbeing and sleep. Respondents included 376 females (77%) and 97 males (23%) with a mean age of 28.5 years (SD = 10.50). The analysis of the data set included standard regression, chi-square test for independence, two-way between-subjects ANOVA, multivariate analysis of variance, and a discriminant function analysis. Results obtained provide evidence for the possible role of bad dreams as additional cognitive buffers protecting HPMood, and nightmares “signposting” homeostatic breakdown. The findings have therapeutic implications for individuals experiencing high levels of anxiety. These include treatment plans promoting sleep quality in support of homeostasis during dreaming.