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University of Iowa News Release

June 24, 2003

UI Professor Says Creative People Recall Dreams

Image: Sleep, Diego Rivera

People who are creative, imaginative and prone to fantasy are more likely to have vivid dreams at night and to remember them when they wake up, University of Iowa research shows.

David Watson, a professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said that the more bizarre a dream was the more likely his subjects were to remember it. Dream recall varied widely, with a few participants remembering a dream every night and others never remembering a dream throughout the three-month study. On average, participants recalled dreams three or four days per week.

This study, which appears in the May 2003 issue of the journal "Personality and Individual Differences," represents the largest and most comprehensive analysis of individual differences in dream recall to date. Watson asked 193 college students to record each morning for 14 weeks what time they woke up, what time they had gone to bed the previous night, whether they had consumed alcohol or caffeine within four hours of bedtime, and whether they remembered any dreams upon waking.

He found that neither sleep quality nor length of sleep was associated with dream recall, although students who maintained inconsistent bedtime schedules tended to report slightly more sleep- and dream-related experiences. There also was a slight tendency for "evening people" to remember more of their dreams.

Most significantly, Watson found individuals who are prone to absorption, imaginativeness, daydreaming and fantasizing are particularly likely to remember their dreams.

"There is a fundamental continuity between how people experience the world during the day and at night," he said. "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."

This research is an extension of Watson's earlier studies on mood and temperament. He has studied circadian rhythms and differences between morning and evening people, which led naturally to studies of sleep and dreams. Watson said studying dreams is important to understanding what happens in the brain during sleep.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, Program: David Watson, 319-335-3384,