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Dream incubation

dream incubation, dream incubation techniques
Dream incubation is a practiced technique of learning to "plant a seed" in the mind, in order for a specific dream topic to occur, either for recreation or to attempt to solve a problem For example, a person might go to bed repeating to themselves that they will dream about a presentation they have coming up, or a vacation they recently took While somewhat similar to lucid dreaming, dream incubation is simply focusing attention on a specific issue when going to sleep


  • 1 Description
  • 2 See also
  • 3 Further reading
  • 4 References


In a study at Harvard Medical School, Dr Deirdre Barrett had her students focus on a problem, such as an unsolved homework assignment or other objective problem, before going to sleep each night for a week She found that it was certainly possible to come up with novel solutions in dreams that were both satisfactory to the dreamer and rated as objectively solving the problem by an outside observer In her study, two-thirds of participants had dreams that addressed their chosen problem, and one-third reached some form of solution within their dreams1 Other studies have found this type of bedtime dream incubation effective in solving problems of a more subjective, personal nature2 In Barrett's book, The Committee of Sleep, she describes her study of prominent artists and scientists who draw inspiration from their dreams While most of these dreams occurred spontaneously, a small proportion of the respondents had discovered informal versions of dream incubation on their own They reported giving themselves successful pre-sleep suggestions for everything from seeing finished artwork in their dreams to developing plots or characters for a novel to asking dreams to solve computing and mechanical design problems3

A 2010 article in Scientific American quotes Barrett summarizing a few of the incubations techniques from The Committee of Sleep as follows:

If you want to problem-solve in a dream, you should first of all think of the problem before bed, and if it lends itself to an image, hold it in your mind and let it be the last thing in your mind before falling asleep For extra credit, assemble something on your bedside table that makes an image of the problem If it's a personal problem, it might be the person you have the conflict with If you're an artist, it might be a blank canvas If you're a scientist, the device you're working on that's half assembled or a mathematical proof you've been writing through versions of

Equally important, don't jump out of bed when you wake up—almost half of dream content is lost if you get distracted Lie there, don't do anything else If you don't recall a dream immediately, see if you feel a particular emotion—the whole dream would come flooding back

If you're just trying to dream about an issue or you want to dream of a person who's deceased or you haven't seen in a long time, you'd use very similar bedtime incubation suggestions as you would for problem solving: a concise verbal statement of what you want to dream about or a visual image of it to look at Very often it's a person someone wants to dream of, and just a simple photo is an ideal trigger If you used to have flying dreams and you haven't had one in a long time and you miss them, find a photo of a human flying4

See alsoedit

  • Lucid dream

Further readingedit

  • G Delaney: Dream Research: Contributions to Clinical Practice, Dream incubation at Google Books 2015 ISBN 978-1-317-64580-1


  1. ^ Barret's study on dream incubation Dreaming, Vol 3, No 2, 1993 Accessed April 9, 2008
  2. ^ Incubating Dreams Solves Problems: A Description of Two Studies by Henry Reed, PhD
  3. ^ Barrett, Deirdre The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use their Dreams for Creative Problem Solving—and How You Can Too NY: Crown Books/Random House, 2001
  4. ^ How Can You Control Your Dreams Scientific American 2010-07-29

The Art of Scientific Investigation, William IB Beveridge, 1950, includes several instances of dream solutions

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