A new study has found that the later it is, the more likely people are to have strange dreams.
The study adds to the growing body of academic research on dreams, a burgeoning area that also known as dreams oneirology.
The study appeared December 25 in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. It was based on 68 students (58 of whom were women) at two UK universities. Their median age was 25.
From crazy dreams to scary dreams and everything in between
For two non-consecutive nights, a pre-programmed alarm clock woke the participants four times throughout the night, every two hours. Each time they woke up, they spoke into a digital audio device to record the contents of a possible dream.
The next morning, they listened to their recordings and filled out a form with questions about each dream. For example, questions were asked about how bizarre the dream was on a scale of one to nine, how intense it was, how the dream related to the dreamer’s waking life (past, present or future), what emotions it evoked, etc .
The average number of dreams each participant recorded during the eight “awakenings” was approximately five.
The researchers, Josie Malinowski and Caroline Horton, grouped these dreams into two Categories . The first consisted of “early night” dreams, consisting of dreams recorded after two and four hours of awakening (in other words, dreams that occurred during the first four hours of sleep). The second category consisted of “late” dreams recorded after 6 and 8 hours of awakening (i.e., during the second 4 hours of sleep). This categorization resulted in 173 early and 177 late dreams.
The early hours of the morning are full of really weird dreams
The results showed that late dreams were classified as significantly more bizarre and metaphorical than nocturnal dreams . Participants also found their night dreams to be more emotional, intense, and “important” than early night dreams. Likewise, night dreams were more likely to involve the distant past.
In contrast, participants reported that their early night dreams were more related to their waking life than their late dreams. The researchers found no differences between late-night and early-night dreams in terms of their stress or negative valence.
The study also included several examples that the researchers say are typical of the early night or late night dreams are in this sample group. For example, an early night dream was about the dreamer going on a shopping spree in a mall. A typical night’s dream, however, was an exam session turned into a party, with the party-goers dressed in Victorian attire and time itself dancing.
Whimsical dream images, new dream theories
The fact that “dream-like” cognition increases in line with time spent asleep reflects “the shift towards fluid, creative, and hyperassociative cognitive processes that underlie sleep towards the end of the night,” the researchers write.
And these differences in dream content may also be related to different sleep-related processes. Activation of memories during sleep, for example, is likely related to memory consolidation. Knowing more about how dream content changes throughout the night “may provide insight into the nature of these memory activation processes,” the authors write.
“Taken together, the increase in bizarreness, imagery, and the Temporal orientation variance of night dreams reveal several ways in which nocturnal sleep perception tends to be more fluid, creative, and associative than early night dreams,” the study suggests.
Of course, this study reflects the dreams of a relatively small group of mostly young women at British universities. Therefore, a broader pool of samples could lead to different results.
Weird dreams, scary dreams, crazy dreams: Where does the bizarre come from?
The study is also based entirely on the self-reports of the participants, analogous to other dream research. However, the researchers maintain that self-assessment is the most appropriate method for determining the “weirdness” of a dream. That’s because previous research has found that “external raters underestimate the level of bizarreness in a dream compared to the dreamers’ own ratings.” This finding can be corroborated by anyone who has ever listened to a description of someone else’s allegedly strange dreams.
But the fact that someone would describe a particular dream as strange is entirely understandable. The “intense (hyper)connectivity” of some dreams, the study writes, “can bring together memories, thoughts, and experiences from seemingly unrelated components of the dreamer’s life.” This could also explain why some dreams last so long, or at least seem so.
The authors suggest that future research could investigate whether people who have more bizarre dreams also perform better on measures of creativity.
Why do I have strange dreams? Melatonin and Vivid Dreaming
Another factor behind strange dreams could be the hormone melatonin, which many people take as a dietary supplement. Research has found that melatonin can actually affect dreams, particularly vivid dreams. Melatonin releases vasotocin, a substance that refreshes and refreshes your memory while dreaming. It helps produce vivid dreams (or even vivid nightmares) that people tend to remember more clearly.
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Study: “Dreams reflect nocturnal cognitive processes: early night dreams are more continuous with waking life, and late night dreams are more emotional and hyperassociative” Authors: J.E. Malinowski and C.L. HortonPublished in: Consciousness and CognitionPublished date: 25. December 2020DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog .2020.103071Image: by 4144132 via Pixabay