Welcome to this ever-growing list of science based resources on the dreaming brain. Please let me know if you have one to share, because there’s so much more to learn.
Also: Come join us in our weekly Dreamstorm talks, where we practice to intentionally sleep on a problem. Every Friday, 1:30pm Amsterdam time. Follow me on Clubhouse to keep updated.
Let’s dive in and nerd out!
Neurology & Dreams
Our brains keep working on problems while we sleep, shows research on dreaming rats by Matthew A. Wilson, PhD (neuroscience, MIT).
Recording directly into the rat’s hippocampus and visual cortex, he found that their dreaming brains process information and start making new connections.
“Not simply re-inforcing the things that we have done, but learning the things that we might do”.
We get most of our REM sleep in the morning hours. This connective, creative state of sleep is not equally divided throughout the night, state professor of psychiatry Robert Stickgold, PhD (Harvard Medical School) and professor of psychology Antonio Zadra, PhD (Université de Montreal).
In their book When Brains Dream, Understanding the Science and Mystery of Our Dreaming Minds, they indicate that cutting sleep short in the morning might lose you a large portion of your REM sleep.
Dreaming and waking brains work pretty similar, shows this research in Nature Neuroscience. If you see a face in a dream, it fires up the facial recognition parts of your brain.
For a summary of the research see Cordis EU Research Results.
Dreaming, mind wandering, spotanious inspration: these are all moments of activity in what’s called our brain’s default mode network. We connect old information with new, and are open to unexpected ideas. Research study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Our eye movements reveal our emotions during sleep, shows research from the French Sorbonne University.
Read the full research study on Nature.com.
Creativity & Dreams
The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use Their Dreams for Creative Problem Solving-And How You Can Too is a compact book full of examples of people who came up with a new idea in a dream. From scientists to filmmakers to writers, these stories inspire to sleep on a problem. Deirdre Barrett, PhD (psychology, Harvard Medical School) tells us how.
Also by Deirdre Barrett is the research study The Committee of Sleep: A Study of Dream Incubation for Problem Solving (Dreaming, 1993). In this study, college students were asked to sleep a week on a personal problem. Even after the first try, half of them managed to dream about the issue, and a third found a solution.
Sleep inspires insight and our mind solves problems while we sleep, even if it’s a math problem, researched Ullrich Wagner, PhD (University of Münster, Germany).
Good morning creativity: task reactivation during sleep enhances beneficial effect of sleep on creative performance. Scent can help you wake up with creative ideas, found professor Simone M. Ritter (Radboud University, The Netherlands).
Try this at home: Sleep as a Brainstorm Technique. How to wake up with a new idea, based on Deirdre Barrett’s research.
In Chris Do’s podcast The Futur: The Science of Sleep we discuss sleep as a part of the creative process, and how to use dreams to tap into your creative potential.
Psychology & Dreams
When Brains Dream, Understanding the Science and Mystery of Our Dreaming Minds is a science based exploration of how our dreaming minds find new solutions while we sleep.
Psychiatrist Robert Stickgold, PhD (Harvard Medical School) and psychologist Antonio Zadra, PhD (Université de Montreal) give a thorough background of the sleeping brain, plus a new model for dreams from a problem solving perspective.
Covid 19 dreams are researched and written about, shows this list of publications.
Nightmares and the nervous system are linked, states this fascinating blog by Dr. Leslie Ellis , PhD (nightmare specialist).
Working with Dreams and PTSD Nightmares, 14 Approaches for Psychotherapists and Counselors gives an overview of the different ways to work with dreams in therapy. Great for counselors, but also for people who want to learn about the many options.
Sexual Dreams: Why We Have Them, What They Mean by Gayle Delaney, PhD, was published in 1994 but it still a great source of information.
People who have a nice date, often dream about relationships the following night. What’s on our mind in the day showes up in our dreams, says a study surveying 15657 people on a dating website.
Dream Work in Therapy: Facilitating Exploration, Insight, and Action is a written for therapists and explores the cognitive-experiential model developed by Clara Hill, PhD (psychology, University of Maryland).
Try this at home: figure out what your dreams mean with this helpful set of prompts to ask yourself, or to help a friend make sense of their dream.
Dreams in General
The International Association for the Study of Dreams brings together dreamers from all over the world. Join researchers, therapists, artists, shamans, and anyone else interested in dreams.
Dreaming is a multidisciplinary journal, the only professional journal devoted specifically to dreaming. The journal publishes scholarly articles related to dreaming from any discipline and viewpoint. It’s a publication of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) and the American Psychology Association (APA).
The Sleep Salons by the Sociability of Sleep is an interdisciplinary research-creation project. Each Salon has a different topic on the everyday and the exceptional experiences of sleep and dreams. (Université de Montreal).
The Science of Dreams and How To Make Sense of Them. In this Clubhouse talk I share some of what I learned about the science of dreams in the past 15 years.