Dreaming is a brain activity that is as fascinating as it is mysterious for the scientific community. To the point that researchers are still not able to understand with certainty what inspires our dreams. A new study, however, suggests that audiobooks may play a role in this phenomenon.
Researchers from the German universities of Freiburg im Breisgau and Tübingen have found that listening to an audiobook at bedtime affects the listener’s brain activity, and even the content of their dreams . They came to this conclusion after conducting an experiment with 20 participants, aged between 20 and 30. The latter had to listen to various audio books before going to bed, including adaptations of Agatha Christie’s thriller, “The Blue Train”, and Cornelia Funke’s children’s book, “Heart of Ink”.
Audio books associated with REM sleep
The scientists fitted the study volunteers with electroencephalography (EEG) helmets to measure their brain electrical activity while they slept. They also woke them up several times during the night to ask them questions about their dreams and the content of the audio book passage they had listened to. This device allowed the research team to discover that participants who listened to the same audio books had similar brain activity during their REM sleep, ie the dream period.
Shaping the content of our dreams
The researchers then analyzed the brain signals of the subjects in their study to confirm this finding. Result: high frequency brain activity (18-30Hz) was directly correlated to the content of the audio books that the participants had listened to before falling asleep. In other words, experiences in our daily life can shape the content of our dreams through the reactivation of memory during sleep. “Knowledge learned during brain activity in REM sleep has also been incorporated into dream accounts. We thus provide evidence that memory processing during sleep shapes the content of our dreams,” write the researchers in the study, recently published on the Biorxiv.org website.
Possible medical applications
This increased understanding of dreams is very promising in neuroscience. “Individuals with certain psychological or psychiatric disorders may benefit from tailored strategies that improve memory processing or treat sleep-dream disturbances, which may contribute to improved cognitive and emotional well-being,” said Deniz Kumral, researcher at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau and lead author of the study. However, this track needs to be supported in the future by further research given the small size of its panel of participants.