More nightmare symptoms are experienced by nurses who report higher social vigilance at work and perceived work stress, according to results of a study presented at the 36th Annual Meeting SLEEP 2022, held from June 4 to 8, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Exposure and reactivity to stressors during the day have the potential to increase nightmare frequency and severity. Nurses are a population who have high exposure to social vigilance, or the monitoring of their social environment for potential threats, which may increase the risk for nightmares.

This study aimed to evaluate whether nightmares were associated with social vigilance and whether a nurse’s perceived stress of their job reinforced the relationship between social vigilance and nightmares. To that aim, nurses (N=464) from 2 hospitals in the Dallas area were evaluated by the Social Vigilance Questionnaire (SVQ), Nightmare Disorder Index (NDI), Challenge- and Hindrance-Related Self-Reported Stress Scale (CHRSS), as well as keeping a dream diary for 14 days.

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The study population comprised 91% women who were aged a mean of 39.03 (SD, 11.07) years.

Both greater hindrance stress (β, 0.13; P =.031) and social vigilance (β, 0.10; P =.041) predicted more nightmare symptoms, as assessed by NDI.

Neither hindrance stress nor social vigilance predicted NDI-assessed nightmare frequency. Using the frequency of nightmares recorded in the sleep journals; however, nightmare frequency was associated with greater hindrance stress (β, 0.14; P =.015) but not social vigilance.

The results of this study may not be generalizable to other professions which experience heightened social vigilance and hindrance stress. Additional study is needed to evaluate whether these trends are generalizable to other similarly stressful professions.

The study authors concluded, “Results indicate nurses who report higher levels of social vigilance or hindrance stress at work experience more nightmare symptoms. Although more research is needed, supporting nurses who report high levels of stress and vigilance may help reduce their arousal and improve sleep.”


Jordan S, Slavish D, Dietch J, et al. The role of social vigilance and hindrance-challenge stress in predicting nightmares among nurses. Presented at SLEEP 2022; June 4-8; Charlotte, North Carolina. Abstract 497.