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Nightmares as a coping mechanism for stress:

Stress symptoms. Dreaming, nightmares and stress
Here’s a recent Abstract from the Scientific Journal “Dreaming”:

The cause of nightmares remains unclear. However, previous research suggests that stress may play a key role and that nightmares may actually serve a beneficial function. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the overall relationship between these two variables and assess the hypothesis that nightmares serve as a coping mechanism for stress. To accomplish these goals, a group of 412 psychology students were separated into low, medium, and high nightmare frequency groups as well as low, medium, and high nightmare intensity groups. Comparisons were then conducted for daily stressors, life stressors, social support, and coping. Most notably, this study demonstrated a positive association between nightmares and coping with stress. The overall pattern seen in the analyses reflect the significant relationship between nightmares and stress, while the finding that nightmares were positively associated with coping bolsters the supposition that nightmares may help to alleviate stress. Source

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