While all of us dream, not all of us dream equally, according to a new study that examines the current culture of dreaming among Americans. Younger people are dreaming more lucidly, and techies are dreaming more often -- and these are only a couple of findings that show how the playing field is far from equal when it comes to both content and quality of dreams.
A July 2016 study conducted by USA Network, in conjunction with its new series Falling Water, comprised a nationally representative sample of 1,000 18-to-49-year-olds, plus interviews with three renowned dream experts, and recorded dream journals of more than 500 Gen X, Y and Z respondents.
While years of research have focused on what our dreams mean, far less analysis has been dedicated to why we dream the way we do -- and, moreover, whether or not certain people can be classified as 'better dreamers.' According to Melissa Lavigne-Delville, founder and CEO of Culture Co-op, the research group that authored the study, the answer is a resounding 'yes.'
"Young, digitally-connected, creative people with multifaceted identities are reshaping how we dream," Lavigne-Delville said about the study results. "We also uncovered some fascinating facts about the different ways men and women experience shut-eye.”
Here's a look at some of the study's key findings.
“Third Culture Kids” Dream Big
“Third Culture Kids” (multicultural Generation Y and Zers whose identities straddle different cultures, ethnicities, and languages) are by far the “best” dreamers, reporting more vivid and lucid dreams than the general population.
According to dream researchers, this is likely due to the role dreams play in helping this group find emotional balance, social orientation, and an integrated identity that can carry over into their waking lives. They may be uniquely equipped to dream bigger and better, and may indicate a massive shift in how an entire culture dreams.
Pokémon Go Might Be Rewiring Our REM
The study indicated that heavy screen-users and avid gamers have far more frequent and vivid dreams than the rest of the population.
Thirty-nine percent of tech-savvy respondents reporting that they dream daily, versus 26% of the general population. Gamers also have better recall, with 20% remembering their dreams; gamers also tend to dream in more vivid colors. Further, it appears younger, more digitally-native generations may actually be longing for a little dis-connection, with gamers reporting dreams of nature and the physical world more than their less techy counterparts.
“The correlation between vivid dreaming, gaming, and social media points to some very interesting shared features: all these activities strongly stimulate the imagination,” says Dr. Kelly Bulkeley, Dream Researcher at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, author of Big Dreams: The Science of Dreams and the Origins of Religion, and one of the study’s contributing experts. “They all involve high-level cognitive functions and social intelligence and they are all virtual in their location, taking place somewhere other than waking physical reality.”
“Lean Right” For More Lucid Dreams
Across the board, those on the right side of a 10-point analytical (left) versus intuitive (right) scale, boast a higher dream aptitude. Right-brainers are twice as likely as their left brain counterparts to change their plans the next day based on their dreams, have more nightmares and travel more in their dreams than their left-brained counterparts.
Men Dream of Sex, Women Dream of Stress
The “men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus” adage holds true as much in REM as IRL. Men and women seem to dream equally frequently, but the content of their shut-eye varies considerably, with men reporting more dreams of sex, the supernatural, and enlightenment – while women reported a higher frequency of stress-related dreams.
Is Dream Analysis the New Therapy?
With 83% of 18-to-49-year-olds in agreement that dreams hold important information about our subconscious minds, it’s not surprising that 61% say professional dream analysis could be more revealing than therapy. Thirty-six percent of 18-to-49-year-olds would pay, on average, $350 to have their dreams analyzed over the course of a year. Do the math and that’s nearly a $20-billion-dollar business waiting to happen.
Millennials Are Leading a Massive Generational Shift in How We Dream
This is because their natural attributes -- multiculturalism, tech forwardness, and creativity -- align with the characteristics of “good” dreamers. Millennials have better dream recall and dream more vivid dreams than their Gen X counterparts. Given the evidence that shows how the 24/7 influx of information via multiple screens has re-wired millennials’ brains, it’s not surprising that these changes have also impacted their dreams.
Moran Cerf, Assistant Professor of Business and Neuroscience, Kellogg School of Management and the LIJ Department of Neurosurgery
Dr. Dierdre Leigh Barrett, author of The Committee of Sleep, and Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School and Past President of the International Association for the Study of Dreams
Dr. Kelly Bulkeley, author of Big Dreams: The Science of Dreams and the Origins of Religion, and dream researcher and Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.
Falling Water premieres Thursday, Oct. 13 at 10/9c on USA Network. The series examines the intersection of reality and the subconscious through the lens of three characters whose dreams unearth clues about their real-world lives.