10 Interesting Facts About Dreams
10 Interesting Facts About Dreams
- 1 10 Interesting Facts About Dreams
- 2 Everybody Dreams
- 3 You Forget Most of Your Dreams
- 4 Not All Dreams Are in Color
- 5 Men and Women Dream Differently
- 6 Animals Probably Dream
- 7 It’s Possible to Control Your Dreams
- 8 Negative Emotions Are More Common
- 9 Blind People May Dream Visually
- 10 You Are Paralyzed During Your Dreams
- 11 Many Dreams Are Universal
- 12 12 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Dreams, Answered
- 13 What are your dreams trying to tell you? And what if you can’t remember them?
- 14 Dreams in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Theme & Significance
- 15 Dreams as a State of Unreality
- 16 Flights of Fancy
- 17 Waking Nightmares
- 18 Theater as a Dream
- 19 Unlock Content
- 20 What does it mean when we dream?
- 20.1 Fast facts on dreams
- 20.2 Phases of sleep
- 20.3 Nightmares
- 20.4 Lucid dreams
- 20.5 Characters
- 20.6 Memories
- 20.7 Dream lag
- 20.8 Memory types and dreaming
- 20.9 Themes
- 20.10 What do they mean?
- 20.11 Brain activity and dream types
- 20.12 Dreams and the senses
- 20.13 Self-awareness
- 20.14 Relationships
- 20.15 Death in dreams
- 20.16 Left and right side of the brain
- 20.17 Who remembers their dreams?
- 20.18 Dream recall and well-being
Claudia Chaves, MD, is board-certified in cerebrovascular disease and neurology with a subspecialty certification in vascular neurology.
Dreams can be fascinating, exciting, terrifying, or just plain weird. While there is no clear consensus on why we dream, researchers have learned quite a bit about what happens while we are dreaming. Here are 10 things you should know about dreams.
Adults and babies alike dream for around two hours per night—even those of us who claim not to. In fact, researchers have found that people usually have several dreams each night, each one typically lasting for between five to 20 minutes.
During a typical lifetime, people spend an average of six years dreaming.
You Forget Most of Your Dreams
7 Theories on Why We Dream Simplified
As much as 95 percent of all dreams are quickly forgotten shortly after waking. According to one theory about why dreams so difficult to remember, the changes in the brain that occur during sleep do not support the information processing and storage needed for memory formation to take place.
Brain scans of sleeping individuals have shown that the frontal lobes—the area that plays a key role in memory formation—are inactive during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage in which dreaming occurs.
Not All Dreams Are in Color
While most people report dreaming in color, there is a small percentage of people who claim to only dream in black and white. In studies where dreamers have been awakened and asked to select colors from a chart that match those in their dreams, soft pastel colors are those most frequently chosen.
Men and Women Dream Differently
Researchers have found some differences between men and women when it comes to the content of their dreams. In several studies, men reported dreaming about weapons significantly more often than women did, while women dreamed about references to clothing more often than men.
Another study showed that men’s dreams tend to have more aggressive content and physical activity, while women’s dreams contain more rejection and exclusion, as well as more conversation than physical activity.
Women tend to have slightly longer dreams that feature more characters. When it comes to the characters that typically appear in dreams, men dream about other men twice as often as they do about women, while women tend to dream about both sexes equally.
Animals Probably Dream
Many think that when a sleeping dog wags its tail or moves its legs, it is dreaming. While it’s hard to say for sure whether this is truly the case, researchers believe that it’s likely that animals do indeed dream.
Just like humans, animals go through sleep stages that include cycles of REM and non-REM sleep.
It’s Possible to Control Your Dreams
A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming even though you’re still asleep. Lucid dreaming is thought to be a combination state of both consciousness and REM sleep, during which you can often direct or control the dream content.
Approximately half of all people can remember experiencing at least one instance of lucid dreaming, and some individuals are able to have lucid dreams quite frequently.
Negative Emotions Are More Common
Over a period of more than 40 years, researcher Calvin S. Hall, PhD, collected over 50,000 dream accounts from college students. These reports were made available to the public during the 1990s by Hall’s student William Domhoff.
The dream accounts revealed that many emotions are experienced during dreams.
The most common emotion experienced in dreams are anxiety, and negative emotions, and in general, are much more common than positive ones.
Blind People May Dream Visually
In one study of people who have been blind since birth, researchers found that they still seemed to experience visual imagery in their dreams, and they also had eye movements that correlated to visual dream recall.
Although their eye movements were fewer during REM than the sighted participants of the study, the blind participants reported the same dream sensations, including visual content.
You Are Paralyzed During Your Dreams
REM sleep is characterized by paralysis of the voluntary muscles. The phenomenon is known as REM atonia and prevents you from acting out your dreams while you’re asleep. Basically, because motor neurons are not stimulated, your body does not move.
In some cases, this paralysis can even carry over into the waking state for as long as 10 minutes, a condition known as sleep paralysis.
While the experience can be frightening, experts advise that it is perfectly normal and should last only a few minutes before normal muscle control returns.
Many Dreams Are Universal
While dreams are often heavily influenced by our personal experiences, researchers have found that certain dream themes are very common across different cultures. For example, people from all over the world frequently dream about being chased, being attacked, or falling. Other common dream experiences include feeling frozen and unable to move, arriving late, flying, and being naked in public.
Schredl M, Ciric P, Götz S, Wittmann L. Typical dreams: stability and gender differences. J Psychol. 2004;138(6):485-94. doi:10.3200/JRLP.138.6.485-494
Bértolo H, Mestre T, Barrio A, Antona B. Rapid Eye Movements (REMs) and Visual Dream Recall in Both Congenitally Blind and Sighted Subjects. Third International Conference on Applications of Optics and Photonics. SPIE Proceedings. August 22, 2017;104532C doi:10.1117/12.2276048.
12 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Dreams, Answered
What are your dreams trying to tell you? And what if you can’t remember them?
Posted Jun 14, 2015
1. What are dreams?
Dreams are mental experiences that occur while we are asleep. We know of the existence of dreams because most of us report having mental experiences such as thoughts, images, and emotions while asleep—and we can see consistent areas of the brain become activated during dream-sleep.
2. Why do we dream?
There are many theories, but nobody truly knows. Some researchers believe dreams have no function. Others believe that they serve to process intense emotions, or that they facilitate consolidation of emotional memories.
Still others believe that they protect sleep via hallucinatory fulfillment of a libidinal wish. And some believe that dreams simulate daytime threats so that we become better at avoiding them. (This latter theory appears to predict opposite dream content effects from those of the libidinal wish fulfillment theory.)
Some believe dreams function to run counterfactual simulations to daytime events (or possible daytime events) so that we learn from them. And some believe that dream content functions to promote emotional attachment patterns with others. There are many other theories of dream function but all of those mentioned here do have some limited empirical support.
3. Does everyone dream?
No. There appears to be a very small number of people who can recall very few dreams, if any. The fact that such people can function perfectly well without recalling any dreams suggests that conscious recall of dreams may not be required for normal brain function—unless these people (who appear not to dream) have developed some compensatory brain processes that perform whatever functions dreams normally perform, such as consolidation of emotional memories. The idea would be that if the vast majority of people consolidate their emotional memories via dreams, a small number of people who do not dream would have to have developed alternative means for consolidation of emotional memories.
4. How long do dreams last?
Nobody knows for sure. Rapid eye movement, or «REM» sleep, the form of sleep associated with vivid dreaming, can last up to about 45 minutes but we really have no definitive method for timing dreams.
Subjective estimates of dream length, however, are proportional to length of dream reports. This is consistent with the theory that dreams can last a long time rather than flash by in an instant as some early dream theorists conjectured.
The fact that dreams have substantial duration suggests that the events in dreams should be densely populated with events, people, happenings, and other elements common to normal daytime experiences. Our dream reports, however, typically lack the extensive details normally associated with dense real-life experiential episodes.
5. Are dreams meaningless?
It is unlikely that dreams are meaningless—very few, if any, are random assemblages of images. Instead, most dreams are structured into narratives. Some dreams (dreams that tend to be associated with N3 NREM sleep) can lack narrative action and instead are just presentations of a visual scene or a single set of thoughts. Still, even these non-narrative dreams are not meaningless to the dreamer.
6. What are most dreams about?
Various types of dreams cannot be reduced to this formula, but nevertheless, content analyses of thousands of dream reports from people of all ages and walks of life substantiate this basic claim: Most dreams depict people familiar to the dreamer interacting in various ways with the dreamer.
7. What are lucid dreams?
Lucid dreams are dreams during which the dreamer is aware that he or she is dreaming. Not surprisingly, properties of lucid dreams differ significantly from ordinary dreams. Most importantly, some prefrontal neural networks exhibit higher activation levels in lucid dreams relative to ordinary non-lucid dreams.
8. What are nightmares?
Nightmares are scary or terrifying dreams that typically occur in REM sleep and leave the dreamer shaken or disturbed to some extent upon awakening. Some researchers maintain that for a dream to be a nightmare it has to be disturbing enough to awaken the dreamer. Other experts point out that many non-scary dreams (erotic, sad-nostalgic, creative, spiritual) can be intense enough to awaken the dreamer, so the awakening criterion is not empirically adequate for nightmares.
9. What are the most common dream disorders?
The most common dream disorders are:
- Anxiety dreams (often associated with slight sleep in insomnia)
- Recurrent nightmares
- Repetitive dream themes
- REM Behavior Disorder (wherein the dreamer acts out his dreams)
- Dreams of depression (empty emotional content)
- Vivid fantastic dreams that may portend illness of some kind, occasionally including psychosis.
10. How can I remember more of my dreams?
Keep a dream diary handy next to your bed and get in the habit of recording dreams upon awakening. Online dream posting websites can also make regular dream recording easy.
11. Do animals dream?
There is no scientific consensus on whether animals dream. Animals do experience REM sleep and sometimes it appears that their bodies react as though they are dreaming while asleep. Given that mental simulations automatically occur when higher cortical centers are activated in humans, it seems plausible that animals also “experience” mental simulations when their brains are activated, as in REM.
12. What part of the brain lights up when we dream?
Neuroimaging studies of people in REM suggest that the limbic system is especially active during REM, with the amygdala undergoing intense activation during REM.
Dreams in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Theme & Significance
Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.
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Dreams as a State of Unreality
Probably the most basic significance of dreams in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the representation of unreality, or the distortion of time and consciousness. Did you know that dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) cycles of sleep, and that each cycle lasts only five to fifteen minutes? Yet when you wake up, it feels like you’ve been dreaming for hours. When Theseus complains to Hippolyta that their wedding is still four days away, she responds: ‘Four nights will quickly dream away the time.’
When Act 4 opens, Demetrius isn’t sure what’s real and what’s fantasy. He asks Helena, Hermia, and Lysander: ‘Are you sure That we are awake? It seems to me That yet we sleep, we dream.’ When he realizes they’re awake, he tries to reassure himself that the night’s events are fictional by saying: ‘Let’s recount our dreams.’
Flights of Fancy
It’s hard not to wake up in a good mood when you’ve had a great dream. That’s how Bottom feels after waking from a ‘dream’ in which he was doted on by the queen of the fairies. He says, ‘I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was,’ but it’s clear that he found it a delightful experience. He declares that he will ‘get Peter Quince to write a ballet of this dream.’
Before the enchantments, Hermia suggests that love, or infatuation, is a dream-like state. She tells Lysander they’ll have to be patient if they want to be together, ‘(b)ecause (patience) is a customary cross, As due to love as thoughts and dreams and sighs.’
The effects of Oberon’s love potion are much like a nightmare. The only thing worse for Helena than having her one-time fiancé fall in love with her best friend is having both the fiancé and best friend’s lover appear to mock her about it. For Hermia, who’s already risking her life to elope with her illicit lover, the nightmare is having him fall in love with her best friend. By the end of Act 3, both women are ‘weary’ and ‘in woe,’ desperate for the ‘tedious’ night to end.
Similarly, Titania already had a jealous, manipulative, and apparently unfaithful husband. His plot to ‘make her full of hateful fantasies’ and fall in love with a mortal donkey-man doesn’t help matters.
Once Oberon realizes that he’s caused nightmares for innocent people as well, he decides to work on damage control. He instructs Puck to re-enchant the lovers not only to correct the mix-ups, but so that ‘all this derision Shall seem a dream and fruitless vision’ and so the lovers will ‘think no more of this night’s accidents But as the fierce vexation of a dream.’
The Pyramus and Thisbe play becomes comical because it’s so cheesily performed, but its content is dark and nightmarish as well. Pyramus despairs when he believes a lion has killed Thisbe, and he escalates the perceived tragedy with his own actual suicide. Thisbe then feels compelled to kill herself too. This nightmare is violent and gory: both lovers impale themselves on a sword.
Theater as a Dream
Fiction allows us to escape reality, and it comes in many forms: books, movies, plays, and computer/console games. As theatrical fiction, A Midsummer Night’s Dream certainly distances itself from reality: it features fairies, magic, an Amazonian queen, and a donkey-man. It’s also set in the woods, which in fiction is traditionally a place where reality becomes dreamlike (and frightening): think of the forests in The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland, and the Blair Witch series.
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What does it mean when we dream?
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Dreams are stories and images that our minds create while we sleep. They can be entertaining, fun, romantic, disturbing, frightening, and sometimes bizarre.
They are an enduring source of mystery for scientists and psychological doctors. Why do dreams occur? What causes them? Can we control them? What do they mean?
This article will explore the current theories, causes, and applications of dreaming.
Fast facts on dreams
- We may not remember dreaming, but everyone is thought to dream between 3 and 6 times per night
- It is thought that each dream lasts between 5 to 20 minutes.
- Around 95 percent of dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed.
- Dreaming can help you learn and develop long-term memories.
- Blind people dream more with other sensory components compared with sighted people.
Share on Pinterest Dreams: Do they represent our unconsious desires?
There are several theories about why we dream. Are dreams merely part of the sleep cycle, or do they serve some other purpose?
Possible explanations include:
- representing unconscious desires and wishes
- interpreting random signals from the brain and body during sleep
- consolidating and processing information gathered during the day
- working as a form of psychotherapy
From evidence and new research methodologies, researchers have speculated that dreaming serves the following functions:
- offline memory reprocessing, in which the brain consolidates learning and memory tasks and supports and records waking consciousness
- preparing for possible future threats
- cognitive simulation of real life experiences, as dreaming is a subsystem of the waking default network, the part of the mind active during daydreaming
- helping develop cognitive capabilities
- reflecting unconscious mental function in a psychoanalytic way
- a unique state of consciousness that incorporates experience of the present, processing of the past, and preparation for the future
- a psychological space where overwhelming, contradictory, or highly complex notions can be brought together by the dreaming ego, notions that would be unsettling while awake, serving the need for psychological balance and equilibrium
Much that remains unknown about dreams. They are by nature difficult to study in a laboratory, but technology and new research techniques may help improve our understanding of dreams.
Phases of sleep
Share on Pinterest Dreams most likely happen during REM sleep.
There are five phases of sleep in a sleep cycle:
Stage 1: Light sleep, slow eye movement, and reduced muscle activity. This stage forms 4 to 5 percent of total sleep.
Stage 2: Eye movement stops and brain waves become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles. This stage forms 45 to 55 percent of total sleep.
Stage 3: Extremely slow brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves. This accounts for 4 to 6 percent of total sleep.
Stage 4: The brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is difficult to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, which together are called “deep sleep.” There is no eye movement or muscle activity. People awakened while in deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel disoriented for several minutes after waking up. This forms 12 to 15 percent of total sleep.
Stage 5: This stage is known as rapid eye movement (REM). Breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and males develop penile erections. When people awaken during REM sleep, they often describe bizarre and illogical tales. These are dreams. This stage accounts for 20 to 25 percent of total sleep time.
Neuroscience offers explanations linked to the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep as a likely candidate for the cause of dreaming.
Dreams are a universal human experience that can be described as a state of consciousness characterized by sensory, cognitive and emotional occurrences during sleep.
The dreamer has reduced control over the content, visual images and activation of the memory.
There is no cognitive state that has been as extensively studied and yet as frequently misunderstood as dreaming.
There are significant differences between the neuroscientific and psychoanalytic approaches to dream analysis.
Neuroscientists are interested in the structures involved in dream production, dream organization, and narratability. However, psychoanalysis concentrates on the meaning of dreams and placing them in the context of relationships in the history of the dreamer.
Reports of dreams tend to be full of emotional and vivid experiences that contain themes, concerns, dream figures, and objects that correspond closely to waking life.
These elements create a novel “reality” out of seemingly nothing, producing an experience with a lifelike timeframe and connections.
Nightmares are distressing dreams that cause the dreamer to feel a number of disturbing emotions. Common reactions to a nightmare include fear and anxiety.
They can occur in both adults and children, and causes include:
- emotional difficulties
- use of certain medications or drugs
Lucid dreaming is the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. They may have some control over their dream.
This measure of control can vary between lucid dreams. They often occur in the middle of a regular dream when the sleeping person realizes suddenly that they are dreaming.
Some people experience lucid dreaming at random, while others have reported being able to increase their capacity to control their dreams.
What goes through our minds just before we fall asleep could affect the content of our dreams.
For example, during exam time, students may dream about course content. People in a relationship may dream of their partner. Web developers may see programming code.
These circumstantial observations suggest that elements from the everyday re-emerge in dream-like imagery during the transition from wakefulness to sleep.
Studies have examined the “characters” that appear in dream reports and how they the dreamer identifies them.
- Forty-eight percent of characters represented a named person known to the dreamer.
- Thirty-five percent of characters were identified by their social role (for example, policeman) or relationship to dreamer (such as a friend).
- Sixteen percent were not recognized
Among named characters:
- Thirty-two percent were identified by appearance
- Twenty-one percent were identified by behavior
- Forty-five percent were identified by face
- Forty-four percent were identified by “just knowing”
Elements of bizarreness were reported in 14 percent of named and generic characters.
Another study investigated the relationship between dream emotion and dream character identification.
Affection and joy were commonly associated with known characters and were used to identify them even when these emotional attributes were inconsistent with those of the waking state.
The findings suggest that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, associated with short-term memory, is less active in the dreaming brain than during waking life, while the paleocortical and subcortical limbic areas are more active.
The concept of ‘repression’ dates back to Freud. Freud maintained that undesirable memories could become suppressed in the mind. Dreams ease repression by allowing these memories to be reinstated.
A study showed that sleep does not help people forget unwanted memories. Instead, REM sleep might even counteract the voluntary suppression of memories, making them more accessible for retrieval.
Two types of temporal effects characterize the incorporation of memories into dreams:
- the day-residue effect, involving immediate incorporations of events from the preceding day
- the dream-lag effect, involving incorporations delayed by about a week
- processing memories into dream incorporation takes a cycle of around 7 days
- these processes help further the functions of socio-emotional adaptation and memory consolidation
Dream-lag is when the images, experiences, or people that emerge in dreams are images, experiences, or people you have seen recently, perhaps the previous day or a week before.
The idea is that certain types of experiences take a week to become encoded into long-term memory, and some of the images from the consolidation process will appear in a dream.
Events experienced while awake are said to feature in 1 to 2 percent of dream reports, although 65 percent of dream reports reflect aspects of recent waking life experiences.
The dream-lag effect has been reported in dreams that occur at the REM stage but not those that occur at stage 2.
Memory types and dreaming
Two types of memory can form the basis of a dream.
- autobiographical memories, or long-lasting memories about the self
- episodic memories, which are memories about specific episodes or events
A study exploring different types of memory within dream content among 32 participants found the following:
- One dream (0.5 percent) contained an episodic memory.
- Most dreams in the study (80 percent) contained low to moderate incorporations of autobiographical memory features.
Researchers suggest that memories of personal experiences are experienced fragmentarily and selectively during dreaming. The purpose may be to integrate these memories into the long-lasting autobiographical memory.
A hypothesis stating that dreams reflect waking-life experiences is supported by studies investigating the dreams of psychiatric patients and patients with sleep disorders. In short, their daytime symptoms and problems are reflected in their dreams.
In 1900, Freud described a category of dreams known as “biographical dreams.” These reflect the historical experience of being an infant without the typical defensive function. Many authors agree that some traumatic dreams perform a function of recovery.
One paper hypothesizes that the main aspect of traumatic dreams is to communicate an experience that the dreamer has in the dream but does not understand. This can help an individual reconstruct and come to terms with past trauma.
The themes of dreams can be linked to the suppression of unwanted thoughts and, as a result, an increased occurrence of that suppressed thought in dreams.
Fifteen good sleepers were asked to suppress an unwanted thought 5 minutes prior to sleep.
The results demonstrate that there were increased dreams about the unwanted thought and a tendency to have more distressing dreams. They also imply that thought suppression may lead to significantly increased mental disorder symptoms.
Research has indicated that external stimuli presented during sleep can affect the emotional content of dreams.
For example, the positively-toned stimulus of roses in one study yielded more positively themed dreams, whereas the negative stimulus of rotten eggs was followed by more negatively themed dreams.
Typical dreams are defined as dreams similar to those reported by a high percentage of dreamers.
Up to now, the frequencies of typical dream themes have been studied with questionnaires. These have indicated that a rank order of 55 typical dream themes has been stable over different sample populations.
The 55 themes identified are:
- school, teachers, and studying
- being chased or pursued
- sexual experiences
- arriving too late
- a living person being dead
- a person now dead being alive
- flying or soaring through the air
- failing an examination
- being on the verge of falling
- being frozen with fright
- being physically attacked
- being nude
- eating delicious food
- being locked up
- insects or spiders
- being killed
- losing teeth
- being tied up, restrained, or unable to move
- being inappropriately dressed
- being a child again
- trying to complete a task successfully
- being unable to find toilet, or embarrassment about losing one
- discovering a new room at home
- having superior knowledge or mental ability
- losing control of a vehicle
- wild, violent beasts
- seeing a face very close to you
- having magical powers
- vividly sensing, but not necessarily seeing or hearing, a presence in the room
- finding money
- floods or tidal waves
- killing someone
- seeing yourself as dead
- being half-awake and paralyzed in bed
- people behaving in a menacing way
- seeing yourself in a mirror
- being a member of the opposite sex
- being smothered, unable to breathe
- encountering God in some form
- seeing a flying object crash
- seeing an angel
- part animal, part human creatures
- tornadoes or strong winds
- being at the movie
- seeing extra-terrestrials
- traveling to another planet
- being an animal
- seeing a UFO
- someone having an abortion
- being an object
Some dream themes appear to change over time.
For example, from 1956 to 2000, there was an increase in the percentage of people who reported flying in dreams. This could reflect the increase in air travel.
What do they mean?
Relationships: Some have hypothesized that one cluster of typical dreams, including being an object in danger, falling, or being chased, is related to interpersonal conflicts.
Sexual concepts: Another cluster that includes flying, sexual experiences, finding money, and eating delicious food is associated with libidinal and sexual motivations.
Fear of embarrassment: A third group, containing dreams that involve being nude, failing an examination, arriving too late, losing teeth, and being inappropriately dressed, is associated with social concerns and a fear of embarrassment.
Brain activity and dream types
In neuroimaging studies of brain activity during REM sleep, scientists found that the distribution of brain activity might also be linked to specific dream features.
Several bizarre features of normal dreams have similarities with well-known neuropsychological syndromes that occur after brain damage, such as delusional misidentifications for faces and places.
Dreams and the senses
Dreams were evaluated in people experiencing different types of headache. Results showed people with migraine had increased frequency of dreams involving taste and smell.
This may suggest that the role of some cerebral structures, such as amygdala and hypothalamus, are involved in migraine mechanisms as well as in the biology of sleep and dreaming.
Music in dreams is rarely studied in scientific literature. However, in a study of 35 professional musicians and 30 non-musicians, the musicians experienced twice as many dreams featuring music, when compared with non-musicians.
Musical dream frequency was related to the age of commencement of musical instruction but not to the daily load of musical activity. Nearly half of the recalled music was non-standard, suggesting that original music can be created in dreams.
It has been shown that realistic, localized painful sensations can be experienced in dreams, either through direct incorporation or from memories of pain. However, the frequency of pain dreams in healthy subjects is low.
In one study, 28 non-ventilated burn victims were interviewed for 5 consecutive mornings during their first week of hospitalization.
- Thirty-nine percent of people reported pain dreams.
- Of those experiencing pain dreams, 30 percent of their total dreams were pain-related.
- Patients with pain dreams showed evidence of reduced sleep, more nightmares, higher intake of anxiolytic medication, and higher scores on the Impact of Event Scale.
- Patients with pain dreams also had a tendency to report more intense pain during therapeutic procedures.
More than half did not report pain dreams. However, these results could suggest that pain dreams occur at a greater frequency in populations currently experiencing pain than in normal volunteers.
One study has linked frontotemporal gamma EEG activity to conscious awareness in dreams.
The study found that current stimulation in the lower gamma band during REM sleep influences on-going brain activity and induces self-reflective awareness in dreams.
Researchers concluded that higher order consciousness is related to oscillations around 25 and 40 Hz.
Recent research has demonstrated parallels between styles of romantic attachment and general dream content.
Assessment results from 61 student participants in committed dating relationships of six months duration or longer revealed a significant association between relationship-specific attachment security and the degree to which dreams about romantic partners followed.
The findings illuminate our understanding of mental representations with regards to specific attachment figures.
Death in dreams
Researchers compared the dream content of different groups of people in a psychiatric facility. Participants in one group had been admitted after attempting to take their own lives.
Their dreams of this group were compared with those of three control groups in the facility who had experienced:
- depression and thoughts about suicide
- depression without thinking about suicide
- carrying out a violent act without suicide
Those who had considered or attempted suicide or carried out violence had were more likely to have dreams with content relating to death and destructive violence. One factor affecting this was the severity of an individual’s depression.
Left and right side of the brain
The right and left hemispheres of the brain seem to contribute in different ways to a dream formation.
Researchers of one study concluded that the left hemisphere seems to provide dream origin while the right hemisphere provides dream vividness, figurativeness and affective activation level.
A study of adolescents aged 10 to 17 years found that those who were left-handed were more likely to experience lucid dreams and to remember dreams within other dreams.
Studies of brain activity suggest that most people over the age of 10 years dream between 4 and 6 times each night, but some people rarely remember dreaming.
It is often said that 5 minutes after a dream, people have forgotten 50 percent of its content, increasing to 90 percent another 5 minutes later.
Most dreams are entirely forgotten by the time someone wakes up, but it is not known precisely why dreams are so hard to remember.
Steps that may help improve dream recall, include:
- waking up naturally and not with an alarm
- focusing on the dream as much as possible upon waking
- writing down as much about the dream as possible upon waking
- making recording dreams a routine
Who remembers their dreams?
There are factors that can potentially influence who remembers their dreams, how much of the dream remains intact, and how vivid it is.
Age: Over time, a person is likely to experience changes in sleep timing, structure, and electroencephalographic (EEG) activity.
Evidence suggests that dream recall progressively decreases from the beginning of adulthood, but not in older age. Dream also become less intense. This evolution occurs faster in men than women, with gender differences in the content of dreams.
Gender: A study of dreams experienced by 108 males and 110 females found no differences between the amount of aggression, friendliness, sexuality, male characters, weapons, or clothes that feature in the content.
However, the dreams of females featured a higher number of family members, babies, children, and indoor settings than those of males.
Sleep disorders: Dream recall is heightened in patients with insomnia, and their dreams reflect the stress associated with their condition. The dreams of people with narcolepsy may a more bizarre and negative tone.
Dream recall and well-being
One study looked at whether dream recall and dream content would reflect the social relationships of the person who is dreaming.
College student volunteers were assessed on measures of attachment, dream recall, dream content, and other psychological measures.
Participants who were classified as “high” on an “insecure attachment” scale were significantly more likely to:
- report a dream
- dream frequently
- experience intense images that contextualize strong emotions in their dreams
Older volunteers whose attachment style was classed as “preoccupied” were significantly more likely to:
- report a dream
- report dreams with a higher mean number of words
Dream recall was lowest for the “avoidant” subjects and highest for the “preoccupied” subjects.