The box office receipts don't lie. American's just can’t get enough of their favorite scary movies. Unlike dramas or romantic comedies, good scary movies are like potato chips - you can't stop after just one. In fact, studies show that the typical horror-flick aficionado has watched their most beloved bone-chilling flicks at least three-dozen times.
With the Halloween season now in full swing, cable networks are broadcasting horror movies non-stop through All Hallow's Eve. So if you're among those who stay up late to soak up the newest slasher film, be warned. You may spend the night tossing, turning, and battling one nightmare after another.
But if you think that watching horror movies before bed in October is the cause of your seasonal spike in nightmare frequency, here’s something else to consider. It may actually be your lack of sleep and not your extracurricular creature feature time that's causing you to endure night terrors.
According to a new report from the American Sleep Association, sleep deprivation may contribute to nightmare frequency.
"Nightmares are extremely common, and may affect as many as 80-90% of people at some point in their lives," the ASA says. "Nightmares can begin as early as age 3, and are common in young children. They generally lessen as a person grows up, but most adults will also have nightmares on occasion during their lives."
One of the leading causes of the sleep disruptions that result from bad dreams is stress, which inhibits the mind and body from relaxing. Many individuals suffering from insomnia and incapable of easily drifting off to sleep often report a feeling of restlessness. They simply can’t "turn off their minds.”
So regardless of how enjoyable you find them to be, staying up late to watch movies - scary or otherwise - doesn't help you unwind before bed like you might expect. In fact, movies can make it even harder to relax before bed and may prolong the process of falling asleep.
Consequently, a growing number of experts in the field of sleep science say that the TV screen should be supplanted by your smartphone screen if you want to unwind before bed.
In fact, a new mobile app created by neuroscientists and sleep experts has proven so effective in clinical trials that it's probably giving nightmares to the makers of the scientifically inferior "sleep apps" that predominantly litter Apple's App Store.
According to the makers of Sleep Genius, the app delivers a proprietary integration of sound technologies that help to ease your brain into its natural sleep rhythms, which is definitely more peaceful than the soundtrack to the horror flick that is keeping you up late in the first place. From there, not even Freddy Kruger can breach the boundaries of the deep sleep made possible by the scientific secret sauce behind Sleep Genius.
All told, the one realization that horror movie fans must come to about their late night viewing habits is that the consequences of inadequate sleep are truly the only things to be frightened about.
"People just don't realize how important sleep is, and what the health consequences are of not getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis," says Carl Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health. "Sleep is just as important for overall health as diet and exercise."
"There's recent evidence showing -- in men and women in several countries -- that chronic sleep deprivation increases risk of early death," Dr. Hunt continues. "Studies are showing that people who get less sleep are at greater risk for heart disease and heart attacks. And perhaps the hottest area of research has shown a link between chronic sleep deprivation and risk of overweight and obesity. These studies articulate the price society pays in not getting a good night's sleep."
Now that is scary.