Sleep expert: Men and women have different dreams

John Hopton for redOrbit.com – @Johnfinitum

RedOrbit recently spoke to Dr. Antonio Zadra, a psychologist and dream expert from the University of Montreal, who explained that men and women often dream differently.

Having previously broken down the meanings behind some of the common dream themes, which tend to be unpleasant, he also laid out for us some of the more positive common dream themes.

The difference between nightmares in men and women

“Especially in men, dreams often involve being caught in a natural disaster – earthquakes, tidal waves etc.,” Dr. Zadra explained. “Nightmares in women very often touch inter-personal relations; people who are being insulting or degrading to them. It could be family, a spouse, bosses or colleagues at work, but there are often very heated, nasty arguments (in the dreams).”

“To me this makes sense, because if we think that dreams are visually-based metaphorical languages that we get immersed in, we only have to look at what kinds of movies men and women like to go see. I hate drawing these broad generalizations, but it is true that in general more men enjoy going to see action-packed films or movies about disasters, so it makes sense that these are the kinds of metaphors we are more likely to find in men’s nightmares.”

Whereas, he suggested: “Many films that are exquisitely produced and show complexity of human relations and how people try to navigate through these worlds are generally more popular with women. It makes sense that these kinds of metaphors speak more to them and so are more likely to be found in the dreams, and especially their nightmares.”

“The dreams might be dealing with inter-personal issues in their family environment, for example, but it gets represented in their work environment in their dreams, often more amplified and intense.”

“Many women also have dreams of natural disasters and things of that nature, but this gender difference I mention is something we found after examining over ten thousand dreams in men and women.”

Positive dream themes

Positive common dreams are much less common than the negative contents which we often focus on, Dr. Zadra told us, but still worth examining because “they can leave the dreamer with a wonderful feeling when they wake up.”

“One is swimming, in oceans or very large pools and we are swimming deep underwater and we don’t need to breath or are able to breathe underwater,” he said. “This gives the dreamer an incredible sense of freedom. These large bodies of water give a sense of swimming in our emotions, bathing in these positive aspects of ourselves.”

“When we awaken, we feel invigorated and as if we have learned something new about themselves; a feeling which carries throughout the day.”

Another common theme is finding a new room in a familiar house. Usually the person returns to a house they grew up in or their grandparents’ house – one which they haven’t been to for a long time but which they know well. They climb stairs and find a room they can’t believe they never noticed before. When they open the door they discover a wonderful room, elaborate decoration, artwork, the sun shining through the windows. It leaves the dreamer with a sense of awe and joy about the discovery.

“The houses we grew up in are seen as representing our psyche and the new room represents a discovery of a new part of ourselves,” Dr. Zadra explained. “The dreamer awakes with the feeling they have discovered something deeply psychologically meaningful.”

Happily, these positive dream themes occur in both men and women.

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