REM sleep, dreams, and attachment themes across a single night of sleep: A pilot study

Patrick McNamara, Rafael Ayala, April Minsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


REM has been linked with consolidation of emotional memories and therefore may influence attachment processes. We tested the hypothesis that content of EEG verified REM sleep dreams would change over the course of a single night as a function of attachment orientation, whereas content of NREM dreams would not. After a habituation night in the sleep lab, a convenience sample of 11 healthy volunteers, whose attachment orientations were measured, were awoken once every hour and then reported any dream experienced. Dreams were then analyzed for content. Content analyses revealed progressively greater interactions between dreamer and other characters and greater spatial proximity between dreamer and other characters but not greater emotional intensity across the night in REM but not NREM dreams. Measures of dream length did not differ between REM and NREM dreams. While REM-dependent intimacy content tended to increase for all 3-attachment orientations, the rate of increase was slower for the avoidant group relative to both the secure or the preoccupied groups. Attachment content in dreams becomes more prominent in REM but not NREM dreams over the course of night. Future research should determine whether REM dreams merely reflect current attachment status or play a role in formation and regulation of attachment orientation-specifically comfort with closeness to others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-308
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Psychological Association.


  • Attachment status
  • Dreams
  • NREM sleep
  • REM sleep


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