New research says that meaningful dream experiences can increase work productivity.
As you begin your workday, there’s a pretty good chance you spent the night dreaming. And if research is any indication, you could be one of the 40 % who can still recall their dreams the morning after.
Findings by a research team at the University of Notre Dame in the United States reveal that when most of us recall a dream from the night before, we can’t help but draw connections between our dreams and waking lives. Whether real or not, these connections end up changing how we think, feel and act at work. The study has been published in the ‘Academy of Management Journal’.
Sweet dreams are made of this
“Similar to epiphany, we found that connecting the dots between dreams and reality gives rise to awe — an emotion that sparks a tendency to think about ourselves and our experiences in the grand scheme of things,” lead author Casher Belinda, assistant professor of management at Notre Dame, commented in a news release. “This makes subsequent work stressors seem less daunting, bolstering resilience and productivity throughout the workday.”
Prof. Belinda, who specialises in organisational behaviour, added: “Harnessing the benefits of awe may prove invaluable to organizations. And one of our primary goals was to understand how to do so.”
“People experience awe when they undergo something vast — something that challenges their understanding or way of thinking about things,” he explained. “These experiences can come in different forms, whether physical, such as when witnessing aurora borealis, or conceptual, such as when grasping the implications of a grand theory.”
The researchers carried out three studies involving about 5 000 morning-of reports of dream recollection among full-time employees. They delivered a morning-of field study, a single-day morning-to-afternoon study and a 2-week experience sampling study.
Results showed that these relationships continued even after the researchers factored in how much or how well people slept. This suggests that the psychological effects of remembering and discovering the meaning of a dream could sometimes offset poor sleep’s physiological outcomes.
What’s the connection with work?
Many people dream a few hours, or even minutes, before starting work. According to the study, when we remember our dreams, which are very real to the sleeping mind, they can impact and lay the foundation for the rest of the day.
“We arrive at work shortly after interacting with deceased loved ones, narrowly escaping or failing to escape traumatic events and performing acts of immeasurable ability,” Prof. Belinda elaborated. “Regardless of our personal beliefs about dreams, these experiences bleed into and affect our waking lives — including how productive we are at work.”
Prof. Belinda recommends keeping a journal “to allow meaningful dreams” to stay with us. “Recording dreams gives them repeated opportunities to elicit beneficial emotions and make connections between dreams.”
He also suggests both managers and employees encourage the awe experience in work environments.