June 27, 2003 - "To sleep, perchance to dream," mused Shakespeare's Hamlet, but those words might have been referring to the Bard himself. A new study shows creative, imaginative people are more likely to have vivid dreams during sleep and remember them when they wake up.
Researchers say almost every human dreams several times at night, but the average person only remembers dreaming about half the time. And while some people remember every night's dreams, others have virtually no dream recall.
In this study, published in the May issue of Personality and Individual Differences, researchers attempted to sort out some of the individual differences that might contribute to variation in dream recall.
For 14 weeks, 193 college students were asked to keep track of what time they woke up each morning, what time they had gone to bed, whether they had consumed alcohol or caffeine within four hours of bedtime, and whether they remembered any dreams when they woke up. The students also filled out questionnaires that assessed their personality traits.
Consistent with previous studies, researchers found that the participants remembered dreaming in their sleep about half the time and there was great variation in the degree of dream recall. Overall, the students recalled dreams about three or four days per week.
Although previous research has suggested that sleep quality or length of sleep can contribute to dream recall, this study found these factors did not significantly affect dream recall. But students who had inconsistent sleep schedules tended to report more dreams during sleep.
When researchers looked at personality traits that contributed to dream recall, they found people who were prone to absorption, imaginativeness, daydreaming, and fantasizing were most likely to remember their dreams.
"There is a fundamental continuity between how people experience the world during the day and at night," says researcher David Watson, a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa, in a news release. "People who are prone to daydreaming and fantasy have less of a barrier between states of sleep and wakefulness and seem to more easily pass between them."
The study also found that people who had more vivid, unusual, and interesting dreams had better dream recall. Watson says these findings support the"salience hypothesis," which states that items that are unusual are more easily remembered.
SOURCES: Personality and Individual Differences, May 2003. News release, University of Iowa.