Background: Nightmare experience is associated with a broad spectrum of psychopathology, however, there lacks a structure-validated questionnaire to measure the effects of nightmare contents on the physical, psychological and behavioral aspects.
Methods: Based on the clinical manifestation and previous documentation, we have designed a matrix of 95 items to measure the nightmare contents, plus one item to measure the nightmare frequency, and trialed them in 160 male and 161 female Chinese university students who have had a life-long nightmare experience.
Results: After both exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, we have found four factors regarding the nightmare experience, namely Physical Effect, Negative Emotion, Meaning Interpretation and Horrible Stimulation. The fit of 20-item model (five top-loading items each factor) has proven to be the best structure. Together with an item measuring frequency, the model, called Nightmare Experience Questionnaire (NEQ), was retained for further analyses. The nightmare frequency was positively correlated with all the four NEQ factors, and women scored significantly higher on NEQ Negative Emotion and Meaning Interpretation factors than men did.
Conclusion: The NEQ might help to understand some psychiatric disorders, especially those with the awaking emotional deregulation in women.