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I’m a world-leading sleep specialist, here’s how you can banish nightmares FOREVER by ‘hacking’ into them | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker



By Cassidy Morrison Senior Health Reporter For Dailymail.Com

23:50 22 May 2024, updated 23:52 22 May 2024

Sleep scientists have found the key to unlocking good dreams and banishing bad ones.

Prominent sleep researcher Dr Matt Walker discussed the cutting-edge hack to happier dreams, which sees sufferers rewrite the terrifying ending to their nightmare to become neutral or even positive and practice playing out that new version in their heads while awake until it takes hold in their sleep.

Roughly 85 percent of the population experiences a nightmare at least once a year, but an unlucky subset of about four percent gets nightmares weekly or even nightly.

While many are able to brush off the lingering negative effects of waking up from a disturbing dream and proceed with their day as normal, many others may find those feelings hard to shake, especially when the bad dreams become a weekly or nightly occurrence.

The practice is particularly helpful for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 96 percent of whom are likely to be stricken with terrible dreams in which they re-live aspects of their traumatic event.

People who practiced this method, known as imagery rehearsal therapy, were able to flip the script of their nightmares to make them less scary, if not eliminate them completely within just a couple of weeks.

Prominent sleep scientist Dr Matt Walker told Dr Andrew Huberman on his podcast that imagery rehearsal therapy is a highly effective way to hack into nightmares to give them new, pleasant endings. Photo courtesy of the Huberman Lab podcast

This modality, first developed in 1978, involves a patient writing down and discussing with a therapist their most frequent, distressing nightmare in the finest possible detail and probing the possible stressors in that person’s life that could be driving different disturbing aspects of the dream.

Then, the patient, perhaps literally, erases the troubling climax of the nightmare and writes a new, more appealing end to the dream. It doesn’t have to be logical, just as long as it does not cause fear.

Dr Walker, who researches sleep at the University of California, Berkeley, used a dream about a devastating car crash as a prime example.

In the dream, he drives toward a busy intersection, and the light turns red. But rather than slowing the car gradually, the brakes do not respond to the pumping of his foot. 

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Before long, he sails through the intersection and is struck by another car. The impact rouses him awake but stays with him for the rest of the day.

In a session of imagery rehearsal therapy, he would rewrite the nightmare and give it a new ending. Maybe the brakes don’t respond to the pressure under his foot. 

But instead, he could rehearse in his mind reaching over to pull the hand brake, bringing the car to a slow stop before reaching the deadly junction.

A patient will go through this with a therapist, but it takes practice at home. For about 20 minutes a day for a week, the patient will visualize the dream with its new positive ending.

The brain absorbs this updated version through a process known as memory consolidation, which Dr Walker has been studying for decades.

He said: ‘If you keep doing that, once you’ve got that alternative ending, essentially what you’re trying to do is every time you reactivate the memory of the trauma car crash, and then you rehearse this alternate ending, it’s like me going into the Word document and editing the section that was really horrific and bad, and replacing it with something that’s neutral or even positive.’

Memory consolidation is how the brain converts short-term memory into long-term memory during REM sleep. 

REM, or rapid eye movement, is one of four sleep phases where dreaming occurs. IRT leverages this memory consolidation process to replace the old, distressing dream with a new one.

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Dr Walker added: ‘I’ll come back the next day, and I’ll do some more editing and more updating, and time after time after time, gradually, you dissipate the narrative that is fixed inside of the brain, and the nightmare frequency decreases in proportion.’

This method of beating bad dreams was shown to be effective after a single session with a therapist. 

A 2021 study found that after practicing a new version of their nightmare, 64 percent of people experiencing nightmares had fewer nightmares in general over an eight-week study period, and 63 percent of them reported that their dreams were less distressing.

A follow-up study brought those efficacy rates up further. Scientists in Switzerland conducted the same experiment, but when some of the patients described the new endings to their dreams, therapists played a pleasant piano chord. This was repeated several times.

Then, when those patients went to sleep at night, doctors placed headphones on them through which the soft piano chord played when they entered REM.

Adding that simple, pleasant piano chord boosted the efficacy of IRT from 64 percent reduced nightmare frequency to about 92 percent.

After just two weeks, the people who listened to the sound in waking hours while rehearsing their new dreams in their minds had fewer nightmares per week and were more likely to experience joyful dreams.

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