The evolution of sleep and dreams

Patrick McNamara, Paul Butler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


People across most of the history of humanity have thought of dreams as important guides to behavior or important sources of information that can be used in making decisions. This may be due to the fact that dreams involve a very distinct form of information processing, one marked by bihemispheric integration without anterior-posterior integration. REM sleep, which is never unihemispheric, might play a role in memory consolidation and learning, suggesting that species with greater cognitive abilities of a certain sort would require more REM sleep. In addition, Costly Signaling Theory (CST) may provide insights into why dreams have distinct cognitive specializations. CST examines communication between individuals with conflicting interests. Given that honest and costly signals have evolved in countless species, similar behavioral and structural strategies are probably present in humans as well. If dreams are a source of costly, hard-to-fake signals, including emotional signals, and such signals are crucial in producing and maintaining the reliability and honesty of systems of communication among human beings, then the dream becomes a source of unity and cohesion for groups whose members depend on each other for care and support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPerchance to Dream
Subtitle of host publicationThe Frontiers of Dream Psychology
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781608761234
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


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