Subscribe to get full access to all our content
interactive news
Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This
We all dream, but what does dream research tell us about their meanings? (CCSS Level: Grade 7, Words: 581)
Dec 8, 2016 Science & Technology
A
A
A

Humans, as well as most animals, have complex dreams and are able to keep and revisit long strings of events while they are asleep, MIT research shows. Studies also show that animals' brains follow the same series of sleeping states as people do.

It may be tricky to find out exactly what a cat or dog is seeing when asleep, but when we humans dream, what do the topics of our dreams actually mean? Dr. Kelly Bulkely, a dream researcher and visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, has built a dream database to try to find out more. He built a list of common dream topics and then collected data on what percentage of people had dreamed about each topic. It seems that we have very much in common when we are sleeping.

A short summary of Dr. Bulkley's database is shown here...

Have you ever had a dream of…

  • Being attacked or pursued 83%
  • School, teachers, studying 78%
  • Falling 71%
  • Trying again and again 64%
  • Being frozen with fright 60%
  • Arriving late 59%
  • Someone alive is dead 54%
  • Being on the verge of falling 51%
  • Eating delicious food 50%
  • Flying through the air 48%
  • Dead people as though alive 47%
  • Swimming 45%
  • Failing on examination 45%
  • Being locked up 42%

Dr. Bulkeley provided the Guardian newspaper with a short analysis of some common dreams, and we outline a few here:

Being attacked or pursued
This theme is the basis for childhood nightmares that happen again and again and people remember them throughout their lives. The theme has many possibilities. The attacker may stand for an inner fear or desire that's being pushed aside when the dreamer is awake; it could be that someone or something in the outside world is seen as a threat to the dreamer; or it could be just us reliving the fears of our ancestors, whose survival depended on being able to avoid hungry animals wanting to eat us.

Schools, teachers, studying
People who have gone through some kind of formal education or schooling often dream about it years later. The people in the survey were mostly college students, so school was a strong life concern, especially for women. School-related dreams are not only a modern event either – there's evidence the ancient Chinese had dreams and nightmares about the civil service examinations that decided one's future professional success.

Falling
Dreams of falling are much more common than dreams of flying; we are more likely to fall under gravity than fly in real life too. Such dreams may happen when there's a shift in the brain from one stage of sleep to another. Dreams of falling may reflect experiences of sudden change, disorder, loss or hurt. These dreams can, in extreme cases, turn into scenes of general disaster in which the world itself is falling to pieces.

Trying again and again to do something
Sometimes the mind in sleep gets caught in a loop of half-dreaming, half-waking usually when the dreamer is trying to deal with a stressful event from waking life. The person may have strong feelings of frustration, powerlessness and fear. It also reflects a deep human worry that we can become trapped in an endless cycle of wasted energy. People today sometimes feel that way in their jobs, their schooling or their relationships, and these kinds of dreams represent their fears of a shadow hanging over their waking life.

Related Articles
Increasing C-section births costing Canada Dearly
Apr 23, 2018
Single-use Plastics Are A Scourge, So It Is Vital We Act Now
Apr 20, 2018
Welcome To The First Branch Of A Bank In China Without Staff
Apr 18, 2018
Harnessing The Body's Immune System To Attack Cancer Improves Survival
Apr 17, 2018
Punk-Rock Hair Turtle Is On A New List Of Endangered Reptiles
Apr 13, 2018
SE Asian Countries To Limit Tourism
Apr 6, 2018
Police In Ohio Had Very Unusual Crime To Deal With The Last Month
Apr 5, 2018
Fast Food Restaurants Are Being Organised Like Little Factories, Robots And All
Mar 27, 2018
Orange Snow Hit Parts Of Europe This Weekend
Mar 26, 2018
World Renowned Physicist Stephen Hawking Has Died
Mar 15, 2018
Rocket Science? You Can Do That With Pi
Mar 14, 2018
NASA's Satellites Discover 1.5 Million Penguins In Antarctica
Mar 12, 2018
Babies May Benefit From Looking Like Dad
Mar 8, 2018
Out-Of-Control Space Station About To Come Crashing Back To Earth
Mar 7, 2018
Standing Desks May Be Doing More Harm Than Good
Feb 27, 2018
Tokyo To Build World's Tallest Wooden Skyscraper
Feb 21, 2018
World's First Synthetic Antibiotic
Feb 16, 2018
China's War On Pollution - Shivering For Cleaner Air
Feb 12, 2018
SpaceX's Starman Looking Down At Earth From His Gleaming Red Sports Car
Feb 7, 2018
Lift Off, NZ-based Rocket Lab Has Completed First Successful Launch
Jan 23, 2018
Starfish Destroying Great Barrier Reef
Jan 22, 2018
Ozone Layer is Healing Due to Chemical Ban
Jan 18, 2018
Drinking Too Much Water As Harmful As Too Little
Jan 9, 2018
Bitter Taste Preferences Related To Harsher Moral Judgements And Interpersonal Hostility
Jan 3, 2018
The World's First Commercial Flying Cars Could Soon Take Off
Dec 19, 2017
New Zealand Giant Ancient Penguin Unearthed
Dec 15, 2017
Astronomers To Check Mysterious Interstellar Object For Signs Of Technology
Dec 13, 2017
When Everything Is Silent, The Earth Produces A Mysterious Hum
Dec 11, 2017
Scientists discover a 245,000 million-year-old 'Darth Vader' horseshoe crab fossil
Dec 7, 2017
First Ever Kid-Focused Coding Google Doodle
Dec 5, 2017
Google faces mass legal action in UK over data snooping
Dec 1, 2017
Teenage Brains Can't Tell What's Important and What's Not
Nov 28, 2017
Fears For World's Rarest Penguin As Population Plummets 
Nov 28, 2017
Singapore To Start Using Driverless Buses by 2022
Nov 26, 2017
Cinnamon Helps Burn Fat Cells, Study Finds
Nov 24, 2017
Fake WhatsApp Fools Thousands Of Android Users
Nov 6, 2017
More Than 75 Percent Decline Over 27 Years In Total Flying Insect Biomass
Oct 20, 2017
Major Wi-Fi Security Flaws Affect Billions Worldwide
Oct 18, 2017
NASA Is Running Our Of The Most Precious Ingredient Needed For Future Space Missions
Oct 11, 2017
Women Can Be Just As Risk-taking As Men
Oct 9, 2017
Google's New Earbuds Can Translate 40 Languages Instantly
Oct 5, 2017
This Ancient Giant Frog Had Powerful Jaws And May Have Eaten Small Dinosaurs
Sep 21, 2017
End Of Mission Timeline, As Cassini Makes Its Final Approach To Saturn
Sep 15, 2017
Mystery Blob Creature That Looks Like A Brain
Sep 4, 2017
Cheese Impacts Skull Shape
Aug 29, 2017
China To Launch New, 400km/h Trains on Beijing to Shanghai Route
Aug 25, 2017
Google Docs Just Made A Big Update
Aug 17, 2017
GM Pigs Move A Step Closer To Being Organ Donors
Aug 11, 2017
Apple's China App Store Has Removed VPN's
Jul 31, 2017
Scientific Breakthrough That May Change The Colours Of Our Gardens
Jul 28, 2017
Preparing For Life On The Moon, China Tests Self-Sustaining Space
Jul 11, 2017
Why Ancient Roman Concrete Lasts For Millenia
Jul 10, 2017
Grandma Throws Coins Into Plane Engine - For Good Luck
Jul 6, 2017
Annual New Zealand Garden Bird Survey Kicking Off This Saturday
Jun 23, 2017
Australian Scientists Pull Up Nightmare Deep Sea Creatures
Jun 21, 2017
Auckland Bridge Will Be Flooded In Light Powered By Solar And Battery Energy
May 29, 2017
The World's First Robot Police Officer Goes On Duty In Dubai
May 26, 2017
World's Hottest Chilli Grown in Wales
May 19, 2017
AI Movie Writing Skill Turns Out To Be Hilarious and Intense
May 4, 2017
China Builds World's Largest Amphibious Aircraft
May 3, 2017
Cassini Passes By Titan One Last Time
Apr 26, 2017
Scientists Discover Massive Sulfur-Eating Hell-Clams
Apr 19, 2017
NASA Will Destroy A US$3.26 Billion Saturn Probe this Summer To Protect An Alien Water World
Apr 7, 2017
New Application For The The World's Strongest Material
Apr 6, 2017
Australia's Own 'Jurassic Park'
Mar 28, 2017
Incredible Ice House in New York State Encased In Ice During Five Days Storm
Mar 14, 2017
Why Did Australian Lake Turn Bright Pink?
Mar 13, 2017
'Parched' Chinese City Plans To Obtain Water From Russian Lake
Mar 10, 2017
Wild African Elephants Sleep 2 Hours Only
Mar 6, 2017
How Clean Are Our Swimming Pools?
Mar 2, 2017
Scientists Excited By Gigantic New Global Continent Zealandia
Feb 20, 2017
Roads? Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads
Feb 15, 2017
123456 Is Still The World's Most Popular Password
Jan 18, 2017
US Woman Killed By Superbug Resistant To Every Available Antibiotic
Jan 17, 2017
Dutch Electric Trains Become 100% Powered By Wind Energy From January
Jan 12, 2017
Incredible New Image Shows The Earth And Our Moon From Mars
Jan 9, 2017
2016 Will Be Longer Because Of A Leap Second
Dec 30, 2016
Explosion Means Shortage Of Canned Whipped Cream
Dec 28, 2016
Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This
Dec 8, 2016
Nestle says it can make chocolate taste just as good with far less sugar
Dec 5, 2016
Paper Helmets May Solve A Problem For Bike Renters
Nov 17, 2016
Samsung Involved In Another Major Product Recall
Nov 7, 2016
Scientist Fights For Endangered Tortoise With Secret Weapon: Lasers
Nov 2, 2016
Featherless Penguin At SeaWorld Gets Wetsuit To Keep Warm
Oct 28, 2016
Will Global Warming Make Fish Stupid?
Oct 25, 2016
This Is The Voice Of Siri
Oct 21, 2016
Makers Of The World's Smallest Machines Win Nobel Prize
Oct 12, 2016
It Seems That Dogs Can Tell Time With Their Noses
Oct 10, 2016
Stephen Hawking Warns Against Seeking Out Aliens
Sep 27, 2016
Huge 30 tonne meteorite dug up in Argentina
Sep 23, 2016
FDA Bans 19 Chemicals Used In Antibacterial Soaps
Sep 5, 2016
Pizza Delivery From The Sky
Aug 30, 2016
Oldest Living Vertebrate May Be Greenland Shark
Aug 18, 2016
One Drug May Be Able To Treat Three Dangerous Diseases
Aug 12, 2016
Solar Impulse Completes Round-the-World Flight
Jul 25, 2016
Transparent Wood Could Transform Buildings
Jul 22, 2016
Space Craft Reaches Jupiter
Jul 5, 2016
Army Of Great Spider Crabs
Jun 20, 2016
Jellyfish or Pixar Character
May 15, 2016
Transit of Mercury
May 6, 2016
Solar Plane Makes Record Journey
Apr 25, 2016
Which Dogs Smell Best?
Apr 11, 2016
Dinosaur with Wings Found in China
Mar 30, 2016
Ghost Octopus
Mar 15, 2016
About Pluto
Nov 5, 2015

ac-tual

real, in fact


adj.实际

an-ces-tors

the people from whom one is descended


n.祖先

an-cient

very old


adj.古老

an-oth-er

in addition to


pn.另一个

a-void

keep away from something


v.避免

com-plex

consisting of many connected parts


adj.复杂

de-li-cious

delightful or very tasty


adj.美味的

dis-as-ter

something that causes great damage or loss of life


n.灾害/大难

e-ner-gy

strength needed to get stuff done


n.精力/能源

e-vi-dence

facts that show something is true


n.证据

ex-am-i-na-tion

a detailed or careful check


n.检查

ex-pe-ri-ence

come into contact with


v.经验

ex-treme

the greatest amount possible, on the edge / highest, very great, dangerous


n,adj.极端

fal-ling

dropping, going down


v.落下

fru-stra-tion

annoyed because you cannot change something


n.挫折

fu-ture

time still to come    


n.未来

gra-vi-ty

a force that pulls towards the Earth


n.重力

guard

one of the positions a player takes in a basketball game


n.后卫/守卫

night-mare

a frightening dream or something that is really difficult


n.恶梦

night-mares

scary unpleasant dreams 


n.噩梦

per-cen-tage

marks or score out of 100


n.百分比

pos-si-bil-i-ties

things that may happen


n.可能性

pre-sent

to deliver or put forward something / now, at this point in time


v,n.呈现/现在

 

pro-fes-sion-al

a person who does something for a living


n.专业的

re-flect

think carefully about something


v.反映

re-late

feel sympathy or identify with    


v.涉及

re-search

looking for knowledge


v.调研

re-search-er

person who searches for knowledge


n.研究员

rough

having an uneven or irregular surface; not smooth or level


adj.粗暴

schol-ar

a specialist in a particular branch of study, especially the humanities


n.学者

se-ries

a number of things coming one after another


n.系列

spe-cial

better or greater than usual


adj.特别

stage

a raised floor in a theatre for plays or a speaker


n.舞台

sur-vey

a view or check on something


n.调查

sur-vi-val

continuing to live or exist, in spite of accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances


n.生存

The-o-lo-gi-cal

related to the study of religion


adj.神学

trapped

shut in, captured


v.被困

tri-cky

a difficult problem needing care or skill    


adj.棘手/讨厌

wake

the wave behind a boat caused by the boat moving through the water


n.痕迹

waste

use then throw away


v.浪费