A new mobile application is designed to help users reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares, according to DOD Live.
Nightmares are a normal way for the brain to process a traumatic event. Isolated nightmares are normal, but when dreams that consist of flashbacks, unwanted memories, visceral fear or anxiety recur often, they can become a debilitating sleep disorder, according to research done by the National Center for PTSD. The Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology has developed a new mobile application to help users rewrite bad dreams to reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares. The app, called Dream EZ, is based on a nightmare treatment called imagery rehearsal therapy (IRT).
According to Dr. David Cooper, psychologist and T2 mobile applications lead, Dream EZ is the first mobile app that uses IRT therapy to address nightmares. The app helps patients stay engaged in their own health care by continuing to practice IRT techniques between appointments.
IRT has steadily gained favor as a treatment for nightmares. In 2001, a landmark study found that this kind of therapy can help reduce nightmares’ frequency and intensity, or even eliminate them.
The technique follows a step-by-step process for identifying, confronting and gaining control over the content of a nightmare. Working with a doctor or therapist, a patient uses IRT to recall a nightmare. Then, using their emotions and senses, they visualize a new ending to the dream and regularly replay it over and over (similar to how an athlete visualizes their desired performance). Although patients do not usually dream their reimagined dream, most report fewer nightmares, or none at all, or they experience a different, less-disturbing dream.