It seems like we know a lot about the continuity hypothesis of dreaming. So why continue to study this model of dream content?


Although considerable research supports the continuity model of dreaming, central questions regarding the nature and extent of continuity between dreaming and wakefulness remain unanswered. For instance, it is still unclear what particular dimensions of waking life (e.g., physical activities, cognitions, emotions) are most robustly associated to specific dream content.

Are there many differences between REM and NREM dream reports?


Although there were indications in early laboratory studies that dreaming occurs almost exclusively in REM sleep and that there were difference in the content of REM and NREM reports, many later studies suggest that the differences in recall are not black and white, especially late in the sleep period, and that some but not all of the content differences disappear when there is a control for word length (i.e., the number of words used to describe a given dream).

I read about something called the dream-lag effect. Can you explain what that is?


While dreams often contain autobiographical memories (i.e., personal representations of times, places, associated emotions and other contextual knowledge) relatively few dream reports contain complete episodic memories (i.e., memories of personally lived experiences that reproduce places, actions and characters). However, people's experiences from the previous day (commonly known as day residues) remain the most frequent time referent depicted in dreams and occur in approximately half of all dream reports.

How common are sex dreams?


Questionnaire studies indicate that approximately 80% of adults answer positively to the question “Have you ever dreamed of sexual experiences?” with men reporting sexual dreams more often than women. The normative data from the classic HVDC studies indicates that 12% of men’ dreams and 4% of women’s dreams contained sexual content, including having or attempting intercourse, petting, kissing, sexual overtures and fantasies.

Are some waking-life experiences more likely than others to be reflected in our everyday dreams?


Indeed there are. Studies have found that people rarely dream of cognitively focused activities such as reading, writing, and computer-use, even if they engage in them for significantly long periods of time during the day. Similarly, some day-to-day activities and concerns such as commuting to work, eating, and financial worries rarely appear in dreams whereas the frequency of occurrence in dreams of social and interpersonal situations is not only very high, but also disproportional to the time spent thinking about such situations during wakefulness.

Can you explain the continuity hypothesis of dreaming?


At the most general level, findings based on systematic content research (including several studies by our group) suggest that most dreams can be understood as simulations that enact the person’s main conceptions and concerns, including emotionally salient and interpersonal experiences. The Continuity Hypothesis of dreaming—one of the most widely studied models of dreaming—posits that dream content is psychologically meaningful in that it reflects the dreamer's current thoughts, concerns and salient experiences.

What is your take on the use of dreams in therapy?


As detailed in a paper I co-wrote with Dr. Nicholas Pesant, I believe that psychotherapists can be inspired by different, complementary ways of conceptualizing dreams and that working with dream material can be clinically helpful. There exist many approaches to working with dreams and, personally, I’ve never been a big fan of most psychoanalytically oriented approaches to dreamwork, including Freud's.

What are the most frequently reported themes in recurrent dreams?


Themes in which the dreamer is in danger (e.g., threatened with injury, death, or chased) have been found to characterize approximately 40% of recurrent dreams from adulthood and between 65% and 90% of recurrent dreams recalled by adults from their childhood. Using the same broad content category, we showed that almost 80% of children’s recurrent dreams contain themes in which the dreamer was in danger. In a majority of these cases, the dreamer is often fleeing, attempting to hide, or helplessly watching events unfold.

How common are recurrent dreams?


60% to 75% of adults report having had one or more recurrent dreams at some point in their lives.  In some cases, recurrent dreams which emerge during childhood may persist into adulthood. There is also some evidence to indicate that recurrent dreams are more prevalent in women than they are in men.


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