Some therapists worry that the technique, developed by Dr. Barry Krakow of the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences center in Albuquerque, interferes with a vital process in which dreams are sending crucial messages to the waking mind. Nightmares are necessary because they "bring up issues in bold print," Jane White-Lewis, a psychologist in Guilford, Conn., said. Between 4 percent and 8 percent of adults report experiencing nightmares as often as once per week or more, sleep researchers have found. The rate is as high as 90 percent among groups like combat veterans and rape victims, Krakow said.
In the News
Forty-eight comments were posted on the recent New York Times article on treatment of chronic nightmares. Reading them was illuminating and encouraging, because the overwhelming majority of writers showed a great deal of common sense in their appreciation for the use of imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT). Among this group, there were numerous stories of those who had received similar instructions from a parent or friend who advised them to “change” something about their nightmare scenarios. In other words, these people or their children had lived through a process of suffering from nightmares and then successfully eradicated them through an instruction that afforded them a measure of influence over the problem.
Why Don’t People Value Sleep? Most people who don’t get enough sleep don’t recognize the toll that it takes on their cognitive and mental health. Many people think of sleep simply as a luxury -- a little downtime. They know they feel better when they get a good night’s sleep and worse when they don’t. But sleep actually improves learning, memory, and insight. “You’re putting energy in the bank when you go to sleep,” says Barry Krakow, MD, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M., and author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping Through the Night. “On a cellular level, the body is literally repairing and restoring itself. Without it, you can’t do what you want -- physically or mentally.”
Changing Nightmare Scripts The technique that Levy used, known as imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT), grew out of research conducted in the 1990s. It's been steadily gaining favor as a treatment for chronic nightmares since 2001, when a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that it not only curbed nightmares among victims of sexual assault, but also reduced PTSD symptoms. "Studies show that 70% to 80% of people who try IRT get significant relief," says Barry Krakow, MD, director of the Maimonides International Nightmare Treatment Center in Albuquerque, N.M. He's one of the researchers who worked on the JAMA study and the author of four books on sleep medicine, including Sound Sleep, Sound Mind.
Founder of the PTSD Sleep Clinic at the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences centre, Dr. Barry Krakow suggested one of his patients to think of a new dream of her own choice. He said, “In your mind, with thinking and picturing, take a few minutes, close your eyes, and I want you to change the dream any way you wish”.