Work-life balance is an important part of daily life, but is it also an important part of nightly rest? A new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research explores the differences between hobby-related and work-related dreaming and the varying emotional states associated with each.
It is well known that our waking moments greatly influence what we dream about at night. This means that work-related stress and hobby-related moments of relaxation can seep their way into our unconscious minds as we rest. This can greatly affect the relaxation and quality of sleep, especially as stress is a common factor that can increase nightmares.
Dreaming about employment has been found to be quite common, according to previous research, with many people, including retired individuals, reporting a significant number of their dreams are related to work. This effect was more pronounced the more hours the individuals worked. The new study sought to understand if similar patterns would emerge for hobby-related dreaming and discern the differences in emotional tone between these types of dreaming.
The research was based on the continuity hypothesis of dreaming, which states that dreams are a continuation of our waking thoughts and emotional states. This means that the thematic content of our dreams is usually directly related to our everyday lives and experiences.
Study author Michael Schredl and colleagues utilized a sample of 1,695 participants recruited from an online panel based in Germany. Data was collected in April of 2020, but participants were asked to recall the last 12 months. Participants completed measures on dream frequency, demographics, information about employment, hobbies, and hobby frequency. Participants were also asked to estimate their percentage of work-related and hobby-related dreams, as well as identify the emotional tone of each type of dream.
Results showed that participants who participated in their hobbies more ended up dreaming about them more as well. Additionally, hobby-related dreams were significantly more positive in their emotional tone than both work-related dreams and regular dreams.
“As one can assume that self-selected activities, that is hobbies, are accompanied by positive emotions in waking life, the finding that hobby-related dreams are more positive than dreams in general also supports the continuity hypothesis, here indicating thematic and emotional continuity,” said the study authors.
The researchers also found that participants who worked a full-time job had both more work-related dreams and more hobby-related dreams than participants who worked part-time or not at all, even though the rates of hobby engagement were similar. More work-related stress was associated with more work-related dreaming, and this was more prevalent in women, older adults, and people with higher education.
“Interestingly, the emotional tone of hobby-related dreams was associated to the emotions related to work in waking life, supporting the idea of an emotional continuity between waking and dreaming, that is, waking-life emotions affect dream emotions independently from the thematic content of the dream,” the researchers noted.
This study took important steps into better understanding the similarities and differences between work-related and hobby-related dreaming. Despite this, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that this sample self-selected for the study, meaning they may have already been interested in dreams and dreaming. Additionally, though told to think pre-COVID, participants could have still had skewed perspective from coping in the pandemic.
The study, “Work–life balance in dreams: Frequency and emotional tone of work-related and hobby-related dreams“, was authored by Michael Schredl, Judith Coors, Lilian Marie Anderson, Lea Katharina Kahlert, and Celine Sophie Kumpf.