Horror films like the cult favorite “The Exorcist,” “Saw,” “The Ring,” and “The Shining” are popular. Our screens overflow with killers and ghosts, and dramatic music plays constantly. Psychological tactics are used in horror films to manipulate sound, visuals, and narrative to create an appearance of anticipation and danger. Your body simultaneously registers the threats as real even if your brain knows they aren’t. Beyond the screens, horror movies have a psychological effect on us that permeates every aspect of our lives, particularly about dreams and sleep.
We will examine the psychological effects of horror films on our sleep habits, the themes in our dreams, and the general state of our mental health in the article below.
Effects of Horror Movies on the Brain:
The purpose of horror movies is to evoke specific feelings, such as suspense, terror, anxiety, and shock. These can trigger the body’s autonomic nervous system to release chemicals like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. The person may experience a physiological reaction from these chemicals, such as tense muscles, dilated pupils, and elevated heart rate.
The Emotion Theory explains why some individuals find horror films entertaining, while others find them horrifying. According to the emotion theory, how we interpret these similar physiological indications varies from person to person. Therefore, the majority of people have faster heartbeats and deeper breathing. Those who prefer horror films would only liken it to an adrenaline surge on a roller coaster. While suffering would come to those who find them alarming.
Depending on the viewer, horror films may have a wide range of negative consequences. Lack of sleep is one of the most obvious negative effects. Those who have watched a terrifying movie may have leftover fear and anxiety that keep them from sleeping through the night.
Anxiety is another obvious negative effect. The individual determines the degree and duration of the anxiety. On the other hand, a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, found that children under the age of 14 who viewed horror films had a higher likelihood of experiencing anxiety disorders during adulthood. This is because the amygdala, a region of the brain involved in producing emotions, stores the fear that is felt while watching. These now-adults are unable to recall the incident without feeling traumatized and afraid.
Additional potentially harmful and long-term impacts include paranoia, illogical concerns, interest in the paranormal or demonology and things that aren’t good for the mind mentally. Furthermore, by association, new phobias can be sparked by horror films.
Psychological Influence on Sleep:
While the excitement adds to the overall cinematic experience, the highs can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Even some people’s post-horror bliss is stimulating rather than calming. Horror and suspense films can therefore make it more difficult to fall asleep, even for people who appreciate an emotional roller coaster.
- Studies have indicated that inadequate sleep or low-quality sleep might exacerbate negative emotions and harm the brain’s ability to process emotions later that day. Issues with mental health have also been connected to poor sleep. Ninety percent of those who suffer from depression are thought to have inadequate sleep.
- According to several studies, older persons who have trouble sleeping are more likely to die by suicide. Additionally, studies indicate that experiencing three or more nights without sleep in a row may cause hallucinations, delusions, and distortions in perception.
- This implies that the terror depicted in films may create nightmares, which have been shown to interfere with REM (deep sleep) and result in disturbed or subpar sleep. It could be wise to reevaluate your viewing selection if scary films are keeping you awake at night.
Psychological Influence on Dream Content:
The word “nightmare” originates from the Old English word “mare,” which refers to a legendary goblin or demon that would harass people by perching on top of them while they slept and inciting terrifying dreams. To focus on the dream aspect, the word “night” was added. The majority of dreams often happen during rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep. A wide range of experts think that regular stress and trauma, which can be exacerbated by watching too many horror films, are the root causes of nightmares.
- Horror films constantly offer violent and rich visual stimulants, which the mind uses to produce dream content. A distinctive and sometimes horrifying dreamscape can be created by incorporating rudiments of suspension, terror, and anxiety into the dream story in a flawless manner.
- Themes and patterns from horror films may appear in dreams as altered performances of scenes or characters from the movies. Dreams are woven with these aspects by the mind as it processes and wrestles with the emotional effect of horror.
- Dreams serve as a psychological arena for the processing of feelings and experiences. Dreams may symbolically depict the frightening aspects of horror films, enabling the subconscious mind to reuse and make sense of the feelings the movies arouse.
Tips for a Healthy Watch:
Even if they’re graphic and gut-wrenching, horror movies can profit observers as well. While the followership endures the terror and witnesses the satisfaction of a satisfying conclusion, horror films can also serve as a platform for facing one’s anxieties.
It’s possible to appreciate the excitement of a frightening movie without losing any of its goods.
- Determine which subgenre is right for you: Discovering your comfort position and the subgenre that stylishly fits your tastes is a pivotal part of watching horror movies.
- Take a break: You may always close your eyes or snappily get up to use the bathroom if any sections of the movie are making you uncomfortable.
- Recognize what is coming: You can always search for spoilers in advance and choose to keep them to yourself if you are spooked at not knowing how it ends. Suspense can be lessened in this way.
- Watch out for the binge: It’s pivotal to keep an eye on how important what is on the screen as well as what differently you are consuming. Horror movie binge-watching also causes the body to produce adrenaline more constantly, which exacerbates sleep problems.