Have you ever had a bad dream about someone and woken up mad at them in real life? Scientists have actually studied this amusing phenomenon and learned that the experiences you have in your dreams do impact your relationships in the waking world—specifically your romantic relationships.
Researchers had 61 students at the State University of New York at Stony Brook write about their dreams and their daily emotions for two weeks. When they woke up they wrote in detail what happened in their dreams, and about the cast of characters that made an appearance.
They also filled out a questionnaire about the emotions their dream-self felt during the dream. They indicated the levels of negative emotions—anger, anxiety, stress, frustration and sadness—positive emotions—joy, affection, eroticism and calmness—and guilt and embarrassment they felt during their dreams.
At the end of each day, they answered questions about their relationship: How much love did you feel for your partner today? How much love did you feel from your partner today? How much interaction did you have with your partner? How much conflict did you have?
At the end of the experiment, more than 800 dreams were collected, and 53 of the 61 students had dreamed about their partners at least once. The researchers found that dreaming about your significant other probably means you’ll interact with them more the next day. The students who were having more dreams about their partners also reported being a little more intimate with them the day after.
On the other hand, feelings of jealousy and conflict in dreams where our person makes an appearance—like if your dream-self catches your dream-person cheating, or if you have a dream-fight—can stick with us after we wake up and have a negative affect on our real-life relationships.
“Jealous dream emotion was associated with increased post-dreaming conflict such that when people reported greater jealous emotion in dreams of their partners, they reported more conflict with their partners on the day after the dream,” the researchers wrote.
Dream-cheating led to lessened feelings of intimacy the next day, too.
What can you do to prevent your bad dreams from causing tension and fights the next day? “Perhaps the best solution is to be aware that these emotions linger and remember to attribute them to the proper culprit—your dream, not your partner,” dream researcher Michelle Carr wrote in Psychology Today.
Negative dreams about your partner could be the result of your own feelings of insecurity in the relationship, she wrote. Talking about and addressing those underlying negative emotions could bring you closer together, even in your dream-world.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.