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Dream Recallers and Non-Recallers

Research has confirmed that everybody dreams, usually four or five times a night. People who say they "never dream" actually have as many dreams as other people. They simply wake up more slowly and lose touch with the mental activity occurring during sleep. If forced to awaken suddenly, they may be able to remember dreams. Dement (1960) told how people who claimed they never dreamed were brought into a sleep lab then awakened during an REM period. They were startled by vivid thoughts, feelings and images of dreams experienced for the first time. Students who seldom recall dreams can partially replicate this experiment by setting an alarm to awaken them when they are deeply asleep. If the student is mentally prepared to grasp whatever is in consciousness when the alarm sounds, he or she may remember a dream.

What did Dement discover, when he tested people who said they never dreamed?

How did Armitage explain why some people do not recall dreams?

Why do some people consistently remember their dreams, while others do not? According to researcher Roseanne Armitage of Carleton University in Ottawa, EEG records in the sleep laboratory can distinguish "high recallers" and "low recallers" easily. Low dream recallers experienced a large shift in electrical activity between brain hemispheres when they were awakened from rapid-eye-movement sleep.

"It is as if the two hemispheres were knocked out of balance," Dr. Armitage said. "For them, sleep and wakefulness are as different as night and day."

High dream recallers, she said, experienced very little electrical disruption between hemispheres when awakened. For them, there was greater continuity in brain processes in the transition from sleep to wakefulness. (Blakeslee, 1988)

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