We already know that men and women are wired differently, but it turns out we're even different in our sleep. A study published in the journal Sleep found that the two genders experience unpleasant dreams very differently.
The University of Montreal study collected notes on almost 10,000 dreams from 572 people and found that men’s bad dreams typically include natural disasters (floods, fires, volcanoes, earthquakes), being chased, and insects. Meanwhile, women’s bad dreams commonly include arguing with a partner or situations that left them feeling humiliated, inadequate, or frustrated. Women also tend to have more nightmares – technically defined as a bad dream that results in waking up – than men do.
“Women are better at retaining negative emotions than men because we tend to be more analytical, so it makes sense that unresolved issues or recurring painful feelings surface in our subconscious,” Lauri Loewenberg, author of "Dream On It; Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life," tells Yahoo Shine.
And while dreams are an evolving field of science still not fully understood, study authors speculate that dreams occur during a stage of deep sleep called rapid eye movement (REM) and that these nocturnal images reveal messages our subconscious mind is trying to send us. “Think of bad dreams as really dramatic metaphors for what’s going on in your life,” says Loewenberg. ”The dream feels heightened because the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, the area that controls rational thought, is dormant, so our emotions allow for ridiculous scenarios to play out.” So, if you’re annoyed that your partner doesn’t call when he’s going to be late for dinner, you may dream that he’s left you on the side of the road during a hurricane.
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According to Loewenberg, when women have bad dreams about their partner, it often reflects an issue that's occurring in the relationship or anxiety stemming from the past. The most common relationship nightmare women have? Cheating. “A woman may suspect that her partner is cheating, or maybe he has in the past and she still distrusts him,” she suggests. “Or, she may have been betrayed by a previous partner and has carried her anxiety into her current relationship.”
If you’re having bad dreams about your relationship, the first step is to identify the reason. “I’ve spoken to many women who have let their bad dreams almost destroy their relationships — as a result, they’ve started arguments or snooped through their partner's belongings," says Loewenberg. "Some have even slapped them when they woke up.” And if you dream that your guy did something horrible, like cheating, it could simply mean that you're frustrated about something else entirely. If you’ve been feeling neglected because he’s been, say, constantly working late or has developed a new hobby, your dreams may manifest a cheating scenario.
If the dream is recurring, your subconscious mind may give you the same message over and over again, until you figure it out. So try. The first step is to keep a notepad on your nightstand and record the dream when you wake up, according to Loewenberg. “People will only remember a dream during the first 90 seconds of waking, so instead of jumping out of bed when the alarm rings, take a minute to reflect,” she advises. “It also helps if you don’t move too much — staying in the position you woke in will better help your body and mind recapture your dream.” And if you're angry, that's OK. But instead of rolling over and glaring at your guy, sit with your feelings — it will better help your recall. And you may want to take a vitamin B6 pill during the day — one preliminary study found it causes people to dream more vividly and better remember their dreams the following morning.
And remember this: “Sometimes a bad dream is less about your partner and more about you,” says Loewenberg. "The best place to start analyzing is within."