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Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing ​hi everyone so when people asked me about my research and I tell them I study dreams they ask questions like okay so where do dreams come from and why do we dream and what does it mean if I have a dream where my teeth are falling out and you know then I have to become an ad hoc dream interpreter right there which is okay but one of the prevailing scientific perspectives on dreams is the continuity hypothesis the idea that we dream about things that we experience while we're awake so just last night I had a dream about basketball guess what I was doing before I went to sleep watching the NBA playoffs or as cleverly illustrated in this cartoon the guy says I think my dream catcher needs some sort of filter I'm getting a lot of dreams about hot stock investments lowcost air fares and products that promise to enhance my sexual performance but my research actually examines the opposite question which is how are our dreams associated with behavior after we wake up so let me ask you all question how many of you have ever had a dream about someone that you know all right now keep your hand up if you've ever had a dream and then you were upset at the person in your dream for something that they did to you in that dream or if someone was upset at you for something that you did to them in their dream okay keep your hands up take a look around so this was also captured in an episode of Friends where I'm sorry this is the slide Phoebe was mad at Ross for something that's well if she couldn't figure out what it was at first and she was mad at him the whole day and then finally realized it was because of something mean that he said about her in a dream so my colleagues and I wanted to investigate this this is when I was working on my PhD at Stony Brook and in our study we asked 61 participants to keep track of their dreams each night for a two-week period and we also asked them to keep track of their daily activity with their romantic partners their significant others in this study we collected a almost 850 total dream reports out of that sample about 1/4 contains their romantic partners so people are dreaming about their romantic partners about 25% of the time of those dreams a little bit less than half have some kind of positive interaction in them and about 1/4 of those have some kind of conflicts in them and people are also having dreams about other people they're having what I would call infidelity dreams or dreams with romantic cheating behavior in them so let's take a look at some of these dreams I'm going to show you two happy ones first these have positive interaction in them this dream goes I dreamt I was at a carnival with my girlfriend she likes them and we decided to go to one that stopped in our town we were having lots of fun and running around kissing and tickling each other we played the whack-a-mole game and she kept beating me even though I thought I was winning by a lot in the end she still won a big teddy bear as a prize which is apparently what she wanted so I was happy that's cute this dream was a memory it was our first date and we were watching saw - around November I was so scared of the movie I kept ducking my head into his shoulder and squeaking when some gory part appeared he just laughed and comforted me somewhere in the middle of the movie I rested my head on his shoulder and he put his arm around me and kissed me he was very sweet and I remember him remember feeling tingly we continued to kiss and hug each other ah so we're seeing what we're seeing in these dreams is a lot of the same kinds of behaviors that people would exhibit with their romantic partners and in their waking lives that you know we're seeing they're going on dates they go to the carnival they'll go to the movies there's kissing there's affectionate behavior there's comforting if I showed you these dreams in the midst of some regular diary reports you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference so that shows evidence for the continuity hypothesis that being said not all dreams are sunshine and roses I'm going to show you some negative dreams now so fair warning if you're sensitive to conflicts these get a little rough a girl left a message on my boyfriend's Facebook page saying that she loved him I find out that he called her and they were talking even though he knows how I feel about her and on top of that he tells her that he loves her after badgering him about what they talked about let's me know that he's holder he loved her but he didn't mean it I've become even more upset and starts smacking him across the face yelling and crying how could he do this to me he just keeps saying he doesn't know and I continue yelling and crying until finally waking myself out of the dream ouch so you know think about if you have this type of dream and you wake up and your partner's sleeping in the bed right next to you what might you say what might you do in that situation also this all this goes to show you how ubiquitous Facebook has come now now it even infiltrates

our dreams let's do another one this involves a little bit of jealousy in in this dream I was friends with my boyfriend's ex girlfriends we were hanging out at my house we were having fun singing karaoke every time I looked at her I thought very few girls there are as beautiful as she is then my boyfriend comes over he wanted to take a picture with her then I got all jealous and pulled him aside to ask him if he thought she was prettier than me I was giving him a lot of attitude and I knew it but I didn't care because of the position we were in I had every right to be jealous and bitchy he ignored my question and ignored me for the night then when I confronted him again he told me he was very turned off by my attitude and behavior I was left questioning my behavior and wondering if maybe I overreacted so there we're seeing more evidence that a dream like this might prompt someone when they wake up to reconsider their actions to reconsider their interpersonal relationships let's do this is an example of infidelity and dreams I had met this wonderful cute and affectionate guy he gave me attention gifts and wanted to meet my parents he even said he wanted to marry me someday one particular part I remember best he took me to this extravagant store all gold and silver he gave me jeweler to try on with this beautiful champagne dress I felt so happy the entire dream that I didn't want to wake up it's important to keep in mind this person is in a relationship with somebody else a completely different person who she's not having a dream about I will do one more infidelity dream I was at a party with my fraternity brothers with a bunch of sorority girls I know from school I remember being called constantly from my girlfriend checking up on me it got to the point where we got into a fight because I told her she didn't trust me I ended up getting beyond drunk and hokey up with some random girl I brought her back to my house where we had sex I remember feeling guilty before it went down but satisfied after so I know some of these dreams look like they're from deleted episodes of the Jersey Shore but what what we're seeing is that when people have these types of dreams with arguments or conflict or betrayal or jealousy they have more conflict with their partners the next day and that's controlling for the previous day is conflict so it's not part of some day-to-day mechanism there's something unique about the dream when people have an infidelity dream then they're cheating on their partner they're hooking up with someone else they feel significantly less love and closeness the next day now what about sex dreams in case you're curious we do have some I'll show you two examples my dream I guess to write it is pretty embarrassing but I'll try to describe it it was basically a sexual dream where me and my loved one had sex oddly enough it was in my bathroom on the counter sink top I felt happy and excited in my dream and with the look on his face I would say he felt the same so this is a relatively good sex dream here's one that's a little bit you know crazy I was having sex with my girlfriend and my ex-girlfriend kept calling my phone I picked up and told her to leave me alone and to go on with her life I went to my girl and we started to have some kind of intense kamasutra kind of sex she kept asking why I'm so mad and I told her that my ex girl kept harassing me she took my phone and called her up and they started to curse each other out over the phone we were still naked and she hung up and we went back to bed still making love to each other and then I woke up so sex dreams are associated with the next day's behavior but it depends on whether the relationship is going well so if the relationship is good and everyone's happy then having a sex dream is associated with more love and intimacy and closeness the next day but if the relationships not going well and they're unhappy then sex dreams are associated with less love and closeness the next day so I want to pause here and just kind of reflect because I'm sure some of you might be thinking okay so dreams are associated with the behavior the next day why why do dreams have this association why do they have this effect the short answer is we still don't know dreams are one of the big unsolved mysteries of science there are several competing theories that might explain what's going on here Patrick McNamara proposed the theory that dreams evolved in order to facilitate social attachment bonds especially between parents and children and romantic partners and we do see some limited evidence for that here especially with the sex dreams associated with more love and intimacy but what about all those conflict dreams that would kind of suggest the opposite that it don't it's almost hurting the attachment bonds and there's another theory that might address this which is more along the lines that dreams evolved in order to help us solve problems in order to see difficult issues from a new perspective and maybe come to conclusions or have solutions that we wouldn't otherwise be able to see to adapt to emotionally difficult situations I want to show you a few examples from some other studies that might support this theory and by the way a lot of this research is summarized by Deidre Barrett in a wonderful chapter she wrote for the new science of dreaming this is a study from William demet published in the early 1970s he gave his students he gave 500 students a brain teaser and he told them to think about it for 15 minutes before they went to sleep how many of you have seen this brain teaser before the letters OTT ffs form the beginning of an infinite sequence find a simple rule for determining any or all successive letters according to your rule what would the next two letters be now out of the 500 students there were 87 dreams that were actually abouts the brainteaser and a handful of them actually solved it so here's one example of that dream I was walking down the hall of an art gallery I began to count the paintings 1 2 3 4 5 but as I came to the 6th and 7th the paintings had been ripped from their frames I stared at the empty frame

suddenly I realized the sixth and seventh spaces were the solution to the problem OTT FF stands for one two three four and five six and seven are the next two in the sequence so s and s would be the two letters that follow here's another study this is from Aaron Wensley and Bob Stickgold in their lab at the Harvard med school division of Sleep Research they gave participants in their study this maze trained them on it and then tested their ability to navigate it five hours later they let some of the participants sleep in between during that five hours and the sleep did help performance a little bit but not nearly as much as if they reported having a dream about the maze having a dream about their maze improve their performance on the retest tenfold compared to the people who did not have a dream it's almost as if the dream allows our minds to examine different kinds of solutions in a creative way and then we wake up and we have something to work with them we didn't have before here's some research by Rosalind Cartwright that shows when you look at women who were suffering from depression after going through a divorce they are actually less depressed they're more mentally healthy in the future at a follow-up if they dream about their ex partner if they dream about their former spouse this might seem counterintuitive you might be thinking well how can you get over someone if you're dreaming about them Rosalind Cartwright calls these dreams that work that those people who incorporated the thing that stressed them out into their dream were better off even if the dream content was negative another example of this former smokers who were trying to quit were less likely to relapse they were less likely to start smoking again if they dreamt about smoking so again we're seeing this evidence that dreams help us to navigate emotionally difficult situations and to adapt and solve problems in a way that we would not otherwise be able to do so dreams have this incredible power to help us heal as Bob Stickle said when you sleep your brain is figuring it out and holding on to relevant information and throwing out the rest dreams might also allow for a creative spark dreams are responsible for some of the greatest innovations ever known to man remember the periodic table of the elements from high school chemistry class for some of you dmitri mendeleev dreamt the periodic table he had a dream that the elements appeared before him and organized themselves according to their atomic mass and he woke up and he drew that and that became what we now know is the periodic table Paul McCartney famously dreamt the song yesterday everybody knows that song yesterday okay I won't say but but he dreamt the song he woke up he went to his piano and he thought this is a great tune let me see if I can figure it out and he found the chords and that became the song one of the most beautiful songs ever written now I think it's unfortunate most of us probably won't have one of these deep profound dreams that lead us to these insights and I don't think it's because we're not capable I think it's because most of the time were not really paying attention to our dreams we don't really take them seriously people think that dreams are just a bunch of nonsense and garbage we wake up we shrug it off we go about our day as if it never happens there's a great quote from I'm sorry this is from my favorite film waking life by Richard Linklater and the quote is most people are either sleepwalking through their waking life or wake walking through their sleeping life either way they're not going to get that much out of it if I asked you right now to tell me whether or not you're dreaming in this very moment most of you probably say no of course not I'm obviously awake my response would be well how do you know how do you know this is not a dream right now most of us can't tell the difference can you tell when you're dreaming or only when you wake up and realize that it was a dream do you understand what was going on so I want to conclude if you get anything from this talk I want you to take this home that dreams are worth your time there they're an important piece of your life and worth paying attention to that dreams represent this great untapped reservoir of information in insights that you can gain about yourself about your relationships about your work about your physical health so start tonight keep a dream journal put a pad of pay we're gonna pen next to your bed and when you wake up write down whatever it was that was in your head while you were asleep you might be surprised at what you find and you know your dreams might be trying to tell you something really important all right thank you SUNY Cobleskill.