Gary Fireman, who is investigating the relationship between hostility and sleep, answers questions about nightmares for Van Winkle’s.

Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your research, and whatever you’re working on now?

My research generally is about sleep, sleep quality and, in particular, disturbed dreaming. Disturbed dreaming is a little broader than nightmares, and includes bad dreams as well. The distinction I make is that nightmares wake you up, but disturbed dreams — bad dreams — are vivid, emotionally powerful dreams that one typically remembers as distressing. But they don’t wake you up.

So I look at nightmares and disturbed dreams in relation to regular dreams. But I also look at sleep quality in general — dispositional characteristics as they relate to and affect sleep quality. There’s a lot of research looking at, for example, how characteristics of depression and anxiety negatively affect sleep.

In one of the projects I’m working on now, I’m looking at how another emotional state, hostility, affects ongoing sleep quality. I’m also starting up a project to see if I can experimentally demonstrate whether disturbed dreaming is related to fear modulation. Essentially what I’m trying to do is pin down the function of dreams and disturbed dreams.