Can audiobooks influence our dreams?

The experiences we have in our daily lives may shape the content of our dreams, according to a new study. — fizkes/Shutterstock/AFP Relaxnews

Dreaming is a form of brain activity that's as fascinating as it is mysterious to the scientific community. So much so that researchers are still unable to understand with any certainty what inspires our dreams. However, a new study suggests that audiobooks could have an effect on shaping what we dream about.

Researchers at the German Universities of Freiburg and Tübingen have discovered that listening to an audiobook at bedtime can affect the listener's brain activity, and even the content of their dreams. They reached this conclusion after conducting an experiment with 20 participants, aged between 20 and 30. They were asked to listen to various audiobooks before going to bed, including adaptations of Agatha Christie's thriller "The Mystery of the Blue Train" and Cornelia Funke's young adult fantasy novel, "Inkheart."

The scientists equipped volunteers taking part in the study with electroencephalography (EEG) caps to measure electrical activity in the brain during sleep. They also woke them up several times during the night to ask them questions about their dreams and the content of the audiobook passage they had been listening to. This enabled the research team to discover that participants who had listened to the same audiobooks had similar brain activity during REM sleep, i.e. the dream phase.

The researchers then analysed the brain signals of their study subjects to confirm this finding. They found that high-frequency brain activity (18-30Hz) correlated with the study participants recalling content relating to the audiobooks they had listened to before falling asleep. In other words, experiences in our daily lives can shape the content of our dreams through memory reactivation during sleep. "Our findings demonstrate that daytime events concurrently influence our brain activity during sleep and the content of our dreams. Learning material that was reinstated in REM sleep brain activity was also integrated into the narratives of dreams. We thus provide evidence that memory processing during sleep shapes the content of our dreams," write the researchers in their paper, recently published on

This increased understanding of dreams holds great promise for neuroscience. "Individuals with certain psychological or psychiatric conditions might benefit from tailored strategies that enhance memory processing or treat disorders of dreaming during sleep, potentially contributing to improved cognitive and emotional well-being", study lead author, Deniz Kumral, a researcher at the University of Freiburg told New Scientist. However, given the small size of its sample of participants, this approach needs to be backed up by more in-depth research in the future. – AFP Relaxnews

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