Evaluating the awakening criterion in the definition of nightmares: how certain are people in judging whether a nightmare woke them up?
There is debate about whether to include in the definition of nightmares a criterion that the imagery or emotions of the nightmare caused the person to wake up. This study investigates whether people believe that they can judge this cause of awakening. 42 participants recorded for 14 nights whether they had a dream, and decided for each dream whether it had or had not woken them. They then rated on a 5-point scale (where 1 = very certain and 5 = very uncertain) how certain they were in their decision of whether or not the dream woke them. Participants’ mean certainty was high for decisions that the dream woke them (mean certainty = 1.60), and for very unpleasant dreams this mean certainty that the dream woke them was very high (mean certainty = 1.27). Dreams judged to have caused awakening were found to be more unpleasant than dreams judged not to have caused awakening. Although the inclusion of the awakening criterion did not increase the association of nightmare frequency with anxiety, there may be other advantages in the use of the awakening criterion.