Awe Inspiring Dreams
November 11, 2023 at 5:09 p.m.
Dreams are highly speculative, deeply personal, and not entirely understood. However, new data suggests that Americans are more likely to have dreams about teeth than anything else, with 36,209 average monthly searches in the last 12 months.
Researchers analyzed online search data to determine the most common dreams in each state. They found that dreams about snakes, nightmares, dreams about being pregnant, and intimate dreams round out the top five most common dreams in America.
The reearch was conducted by sleep experts at Eachnight, which is a national mattress company. The team analyzed online search data to determine the top five most common dreams in the nation.
"Dreams about losing teeth or dental issues are common and have been linked to anxiety, feelings of powerlessness, or fear of helplessness," said sleep medicine expert Dr. Chester Wu of Houston, Texas. "Some research suggests that teeth-related dreams may also be linked to dental irritation during sleep, such as teeth grinding or clenching."
Dreams about snakes receive a silver medal as the second most common dream in America, with 15,772 average monthly searches per 100,000 people. These dreams "may be related to feelings of fear, anxiety, or uncertainty" in waking life, according to Dr. Wu, who established and directed the first sleep medicine program within a psychiatric system in the United States while at the Menninger Clinic.
Nightmares are the third most common dream in America. This dream category has an average monthly search volume of 14,385 per 100,000 people. "Nightmares are more common in children than adults, but these dreams can occur at any age. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, anxiety, trauma, and sleep disorders. They can cause feelings of fear, anxiety, or even terror. From a biological perspective, nightmares occur during the REM phase of sleep, but the exact reasons for their themes or content remain unknown," said Dr. Wu.
Dreams about being pregnant are the fourth most common dream category. Americans search for pregnancy dream-related terms 12,126 times a month per 100,000 people. According to Dr. Wu, dreaming about being pregnant "may represent a desire for pregnancy" as well as an inherent "fear of becoming pregnant," said Dr. Wu.
Intimate dreams are the fifth most common dream. The researchers found that Americans search for intimate dream-related terms 10,887 times a month per 100,000 people. "Intimate dreams can be a way to explore your sexuality, express your desires, or process your sexual experiences. They can also be a sign of stress, anxiety, or relationship problems," said Dr. Wu. ‘While there is some understanding of the brain's activity during such dreams, including increased activity in areas related to pleasure and emotion, the specific reasons for their occurrence aren't well understood scientifically," said Dr. Wu.
These data may provide an exciting insight into the unconscious minds of Americans. Before heading to work each day, most people have spent the night dreaming. Studies show that on any given morning, about 40% of the working population recalls their dreams. Now, new research from the University of Notre Dame shows that when dreams are first recalled, people often draw connections between their dreams and waking lives, and the connections they draw alter how they think, feel and act at work.
“We found that connecting the dots between dreams and reality gives rise to awe, an emotion that sparks a tendency to think about ourselves and our experiences in the grand scheme of things,” said study investigator Casher Belinda, who specializes in organizational behavior, interpersonal communication, and close relationships in organizations. “This makes subsequent work stressors seem less daunting, bolstering resilience and productivity throughout the workday,” said Belinda.
His team performed three studies that collectively captured approximately 5,000 morning-of reports of dream recall among full-time employees. The researchers issued a morning-of field study, a single-day morning-to-afternoon study, and a two-week experience sampling study.
Dreams are conceptually vast experiences that have a striking capacity to elicit feelings of awe. “People experience awe when they undergo something vast, something that challenges their understanding or way of thinking about things," said Belinda, who is an assistant professor of management at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, and Michael Christian from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dreaming appears to have little connection to work. However, most people are dreaming shortly before they start work on a given day. The study demonstrated that when an individual recalls their dream it seems very real and that can set the stage for the rest of the day. “Regardless of our personal beliefs about dreams, these experiences bleed into and affect our waking lives, including how productive we are," said Belinda.
Dreams occur in all stages of sleep and are impactful regardless of sleep habits. However, the most vivid dreams, those most likely to have meaning and create waking awe, occur during rapid eye movement (REM). This is a time when the brain rejuvenates. REM is one of several sleep stages the body cycles through nightly. It first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and is characterized by darting eyes, raised heart rates, paralyzed limbs, awakened brain waves and dreaming.
For more than a century, scientists have explored the role of sleep in storing memories. It is theorized that REM sleep helps the brain store new memories. Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, raised the possibility that REM sleep may be a time when the brain actively eliminates or forgets excess information.
Because REM sleep takes place late in a given sleep cycle, getting sufficient, high-quality sleep may allow you to get the most out of your dreams. Sleep-tracking devices that indicate when and how much time you spend in REM sleep can help improve sleep schedules, and this could increase the odds of having awe-inspiring dreams. “Also, keep a dream journal to allow meaningful dreams to stick with you,” Belinda said. “Recording dreams gives them repeated opportunities to elicit beneficial emotions and make connections between dreams.”
John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at email@example.com.