“Nearly 3,000 days have passed -- almost one for each of those taken from us,” President Obama said at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon. “But no turning of the seasons can diminish the pain and the loss of that day.”
Did that pain and loss affect our dreams in the days and weeks after 9/11? A study published in the journal Sleep in 2008 offers some answers.
The study involved 11 men and 33 women. For years they had been keeping a written record of all their dreams. Each participant submitted written accounts of 20 dreams for the study. These were the last 10 dreams they recorded before 9/11 and the first 10 dreams recorded after the attacks.
The 880 dreams were analyzed for features such as central image, intensity, emotion and vividness. They also were scored for content involving attacks, tall buildings and airplanes.
Results show a significant increase in the presence and intensity of a central image in dreams after 9/11. The researchers conclude that this change springs from an increased emotional arousal after 9/11.
Surprisingly, there was no increase in dream content involving airplanes or tall towers. There also were no “replay dreams.” None of the 440 post-9/11 dreams portrayed the events that were replayed time and again on television.
But there was a trend in these dreams to more content involving attacks. The dreamer was almost always the victim or potential victim. Attacks involved animals or monsters, violent criminals or battle scenes.
In these results the authors find support for the Contemporary Theory of Dreaming. The theory states that dreams are guided by the emotion of the dreamer. The central imagery of the dream depicts the dreamer’s emotion.
Earlier this week the Sleep Education Blog reported that smells can affect the emotional content of dreams. In May the blog reported on treatments for recurring nightmares.
Read more about the study of dreams and 9/11 on SleepEducation.com. Learn about dreams and nightmares and nightmare disorder.
Image by Brian Boyd