Rem and nrem sleep mentation

Patrick Mcnamara, Patricia Johnson, Deirdre Mclaren, Erica Harris, Catherine Beauharnais, Sanford Auerbach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

48 Scopus citations


We review the literature on the neurobiology of rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep states and associated dreams. REM is associated with enhanced activation of limbic and amygdalar networks and decreased activation in dorsal prefrontal regions while stage II NREM is associated with greater cortical activation than REM. Not surprisingly, these disparate brain activation patterns tend to be associated with dramatically different dream phenomenologies and dream content. We present two recent studies which content-analyzed hundreds of dream reports from REM and NREM sleep states. These studies demonstrated that dreamer-initiated aggressive social interactions were more characteristic of REM than NREM, and dreamer-initiated friendliness was more characteristic of NREM than REM reports. Both REM and NREM dreams therefore may function to simulate opposing types of social interactions, with the REM state specializing in simulation of aggressive interactions and the NREM state specializing in simulation of friendly interactions. We close our review with a summary of evidence that dream content variables significantly predict daytime mood and social interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Review of Neurobiology
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameInternational Review of Neurobiology
ISSN (Print)0074-7742

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by NIMH grant 5R21MH076916-02 (P.M.). In addition, the project described was supported by the CTSA grant 1UL1RR025771 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of NCRR or NIH.


  • Aggression and friendliness
  • Dream content
  • Dreams
  • Emotional processing
  • Hall-Van de Castle
  • Memories
  • NREM sleep
  • REM sleep
  • Sleep mentation
  • Social interactions


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