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What do your dreams really mean?

The relationship between dream content, age, recent experienced emotions and crisis episodes in adults


March 2019

Summary of research

We aimed in our research to explore how waking emotions and crises relate to the content of dreams. For the study, 250 participants wrote a brief account of their most recent dream and rated recent emotions and crisis experience. After analyzing the data, we found three key things.

First, waking life emotions are meaningfully linked to emotions in dreams. Younger adults (< age 40) who report worrying over recent weeks were more likely to have dreams containing negative emotions, while for older adults (>40) those who report worry or stress in recent weeks were more likely to have emotionally intense dreams.

Secondly, people who report being worried or stressed in waking life have more dreams in which they are actively searching for someone or something. We interpret this as representing an urgency to search and find solutions to waking problems or challenges that may have caused stress or worries. What also supports such a conclusion is that people who report being happier in their waking life have fewer themes of searching in their dreams.

Thirdly, people who are having a crisis in waking life are more likely to report dreams in which they are miserable or sad than people who are not.

To dive deeper in the relationship between your waking life and your dream life, we recommend keeping a dream diary. Many apps can help you do that -  Capture, DreamKeeper and Dream Journal Ultimate.

Some reading

If you would like to find more about any of this, we recommend the following sources:

A comprehensive, scientific level PhD thesis that covers a most of the underlying topics in our research – Malinowski, 2012

A recent up-to-date book on reaming which good amount of information –  The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives, Cartwright, 2012

Website for the scientific study of dreams by a leading researcher -


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