The violent and sexual media you consume during the day may infiltrate your dreams at night, new research suggests.
People who reported consuming violent media within 90 minutes of bedtime were 13 times more likely to have a violent dream that night, the study found.
Those viewing sexual media were six times more likely to have a sex-related dream, researchers said.
Researchers at Ohio State University in the US found that the more violent media content participants reported consuming on a regular basis, the more often they had violent dreams in general.
The same link was found between sexual media content and sexual dreams, although the connection was not as strong.
“The media we consume can have an impact on us even when we are sleeping. We knew our violent and sexual media consumption had an impact on our waking lives. Now we have evidence of how it may influence our dreams,” said Brad Bushman, professor at Ohio State University.
The study involved 1,287 people aged 10 to 60 – half were students at schools in Istanbul, Turkey and rest were adults recruited from social networking sites that discussed media.
They completed a survey about their media consumption and dreams.
All participants were asked whether they had viewed any violent or sexual media content within 90 minutes of going to bed the night before the study, and whether they had any violent or sexual dreams that night.
Slightly less than half of participants (45 per cent) reported consuming violent media before bed that night, whereas slightly less than one-quarter reported exposure to sexual media content.
Whether they had consumed violent or sexual media content was not associated with whether they dreamed that night.
However the fact that violent and sexual media use was related to a huge increase in related dreams showed the power media may have on our sleeping lives, Bushman said.
“The magnitude of the increase in violent and sexual dreams linked to media consumption was surprising,” he said.
Participants were asked the number of hours they spent consuming media – including TV, internet, DVDs, movies, video games and music – on any devices on weekdays and on weekends.
Next, they were asked to rate whether the media they consumed contained violence and whether it contained sex on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (always).
They were then asked whether they dreamed and whether their dreams included violent content and sexual content.
Again, they rated how often on a scale of 1 to 5. Overall, 67 per cent of participants said they dreamed at least sometimes.
Over 80 per cent of participants said they were exposed to violent media content at least sometimes, whereas half said they were exposed to sexual media content at least sometimes.
About 80 per cent of those surveyed said they had violent dreams sometimes, whereas slightly less than half said they had sexual dreams sometimes.
The study was published in the journal Dreaming.