The study focuses on 99 volunteers who trained for an hour on a three-dimensional virtual maze. At the end of the hour, half of the participants were kept awake for 90 minutes but allowed to read or relax. The other half were allowed to sleep for 90 minutes but were awakened periodically and asked to describe their thoughts or dreams. After the 90 minutes were up, all participants were asked to tackle the puzzle again.
For participants who did not sleep, their second try at the puzzle yielded the same or worse results than the first hour. For participants allowed to sleep, the study registered marginal improvement, though not statistically significant results. However, the 4 participants who reported dreaming about the maze cut their completion time in half, and their final scores were ten times better than those who had slept and not dreamed. All 4 participants who dreamed were recorded as struggling with the maze during the first hour.
Researchers included several reasons they speculated that those who dreamed improved their scores.
- When topics grip people at an emotional level, the brain is forced to continue the process even when the person is asleep.
- The brain is tuned to find associations you don't notice when awake.
- If a person wants to improve the likelihood they will dream about a topic, the best way is to become emotionally invested in it.
- Researchers also recommend future studies on ways to format information that will increase the ability to induce dreams.