Dreams Reflect Multiple Memories and Anticipate Future Events

Summary: 53% of dreams can be traced to memories, and of those, 50% are linked to memory sources of multiple previous life events. Additionally, 26% of dreams are associated with impending events. Future-orientated dreams become more prevalent during deeper stages of sleep.

Source: AASM

Dreams result from a process that often combines fragments of multiple life experiences and anticipates future events, according to novel evidence from a new study.

Results show that 53.5% of dreams were traced to a memory, and nearly 50% of reports with a memory source were connected to multiple past experiences.

The study also found that 25.7% of dreams were related to specific impending events, and 37.4% of dreams with a future event source were additionally related to one or more specific memories of past experiences.

Future-oriented dreams became proportionally more common later in the night.

“Humans have struggled to understand the meaning of dreams for millennia,” said principal investigator Erin Wamsley, who has a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience and is an associate professor in the department of psychology and program in neuroscience at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.

This shows a young girl swinging
Results show that 53.5% of dreams were traced to a memory, and nearly 50% of reports with a memory source were connected to multiple past experiences. Image is in the public domain

“We present new evidence that dreams reflect a memory-processing function. Although it has long been known that dreams incorporate fragments of past experience, our data suggest that dreams also anticipate probable future events.”

The study involved 48 students who spent the night in the laboratory for overnight sleep evaluation using polysomnography. During the night, participants were awakened up to 13 times to report on their experiences during sleep onset, REM sleep, and non-REM sleep. The following morning, participants identified and described waking life sources for each dream reported the previous evening. A total of 481 reports were analyzed.

“This is a new description of how dreams draw simultaneously from multiple waking-life sources, utilizing fragments of past experience to construct novel scenarios anticipating future events,” said Wamsley.

According to Wamsley, the proportional increase of future-oriented dreams later in the night may be driven by temporal proximity to the upcoming events. While these dreams rarely depict future events realistically, the activation and recombination of future-relevant memory fragments may nonetheless serve an adaptive function.

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented as a poster beginning June 9 during Virtual SLEEP 2021. SLEEP is the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

About this dreaming and memory research news

Source: AASM
Contact: Press Office – AASM
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: The findings were presented at Virtual SLEEP 2021

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  1. I know what you mean. I’ve had several deja Vu moments that last for about 4 seconds. After a while I tried to control it by leaving a cue for my self to try and act things out differently, like asking someone a question or looking at the time. I almost succeed once, but by the time I recognized it I had already performed the said cues. Takes a lot of effort so I just gave up on the idea. All I know is that for it to happen I must first forget about the dream. Perhaps this means the future is pre-written.
    However, this article is talking about dreaming of near future events because of anxiety I think. Our brains like to play out the worst possible scenarios.

  2. I have been a Constant Dreamer since I was a small child,I used to sleepwalk and have night terrors till I was at least in my 40’s,I’m now almost 64 and still dream every night in Color.

  3. I read you wrong you’re right how does demons fall into this, I believe it’s our spiritual world

  4. I knew I was sane.things happen I dream about only subtle different ways.although I remember the premonition clearly from the dream.also the places I’ve been r too hard to explain by waking life events

  5. Interestingly, my daughter and I both dream about future events, and then later (sometimes years later) we have a deja vu moment where what is happening in reality right now we distinctly remember dreaming about before. Like, not just dreaming *about* future happenings, but it’s actually down to minute details that we dream about and then it, in essence, comes true later on. Almost like replaying a movie, but we are the real actors. Does that make sense? And if so, what is it, other than prophecy, which is the only thing that I’ve heard of that comes true after the vision? The part that makes it not necessarily a prophecy is that we can’t tell which dream or part of the dream is going to actually be true in the future.

  6. Dream Article: How does demon attacks fall into this? They show the here and now. If man only knew what was hidden from them. The world would be a totally different place.

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