Characteristics and contents of dreams

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2010;92:135-54. doi: 10.1016/S0074-7742(10)92007-2.


Dreams have been studied from different perspectives: psychoanalysis, academic psychology, and neurosciences. After presenting the definition of dreaming and the methodological tools of dream research, the major findings regarding the phenomenology of dreaming and the factors influencing dream content are briefly reviewed. The so-called continuity hypothesis stating that dreams reflect waking-life experiences is supported by studies investigating the dreams of psychiatric patients and patients with sleep disorders, i.e., their daytime symptoms and problems are reflected in their dreams. Dreams also have an effect on subsequent waking life, e.g., on daytime mood and creativity. The question about the functions of dreaming is still unanswered and open to future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dreams / physiology*
  • Dreams / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology*