Social relationships and interactions contribute to daily emotional well-being. The emotional benefits that come from engaging with others are known to arise from real events, but do they also come from the imagination during daydreaming activity? Using experience sampling methodology with 101 participants, we obtained 371 reports of naturally occurring daydreams with social and non-social content and self-reported feelings before and after daydreaming. Social, but not non-social, daydreams were associated with increased happiness, love and connection and this effect was not solely attributable to the emotional content of the daydreams. These effects were only present when participants were lacking in these feelings before daydreaming and when the daydream involved imagining others with whom the daydreamer had a high quality relationship. Findings are consistent with the idea that social daydreams may function to regulate emotion: imagining close others may serve the current emotional needs of daydreamers by increasing positive feelings towards themselves and others.
People are known to engage in behaviours aimed at replenishing social connectedness after their sense of belonging is threatened. We explored whether the mental strategy of daydreaming about significant others could have similar effects by acting as an imaginary substitute when loved ones are unavailable. Following a loneliness induction, participants (N = 126) were asked to either daydream about a significant other, daydream about a non-social scenario or complete a control task. Social daydreamers showed significantly increased feelings of connection, love and belonging compared to non-social daydreamers and control participants. Consistent with the proposition that social daydreaming replenished connectedness, social daydreamers also behaved more pro-socially and expressed less of a desire to interact with others after daydreaming. These findings demonstrate that through imagination, social daydreaming can replenish connectedness providing a potential strategy for enhancing socio-emotional well-being.
This study explores the recently described phenomenon of Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD) and attempts to enhance the understanding of its features. It documents the experiences of 340 self-identified maladaptive daydreamers who spend excessive amounts of time engaged in mental fantasy worlds, in comparison to 107 controls. Our sample included a total of 447 individuals, aged 13-78, from 45 countries who responded to online announcements. Participants answered quantitative and qualitative questions about their daydreaming habits and completed seven questionnaires assessing mental health symptoms. Findings demonstrated that MD differs significantly from normative daydreaming in terms of quantity, content, experience, controllability, distress, and interference with life functioning. Results also demonstrated that Maladaptive Daydreamers endorsed significantly higher rates of attention deficit, obsessive compulsive and dissociation symptoms than controls. In sum, findings suggested that MD represents an under-acknowledged clinical phenomenon that causes distress, hinders life functioning and requires more scientific and clinical attention.
This study investigates the time course of incorporation of waking life experiences into daydreams. Thirty-one participants kept a diary for 10 days, reporting major daily activities (MDAs), personally significant events (PSEs) and major concerns (MCs). They were then cued for daydream, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and N2 dream reports in the sleep laboratory. There was a higher incorporation into daydreams of MCs from the previous two days (day-residue effect), but no day-residue effect for MDAs or PSEs, supporting a function for daydreams of processing current concerns. A day-residue effect for PSEs and the delayed incorporation of PSEs from 5 to 7 days before the dream (the dream-lag effect) have previously been found for REM dreams. Delayed incorporation was not found in this study for daydreams. Daydreams might thus differ in function from REM sleep dreams. However, the REM dream-lag effect was not replicated here, possibly due to design differences from previous studies.
Estimates suggest that up to half of waking life is spent daydreaming; that is, engaged in thought that is independent of, and unrelated to, one’s current task. Emerging research indicates that daydreams are predominately social suggesting that daydreams may serve socio-emotional functions. Here we explore the functional role of social daydreaming for socio-emotional adjustment during an important and stressful life transition (the transition to university) using experience-sampling with 103 participants over 28 days. Over time, social daydreams increased in their positive characteristics and positive emotional outcomes; specifically, participants reported that their daydreams made them feel more socially connected and less lonely, and that the content of their daydreams became less fanciful and involved higher quality relationships. These characteristics then predicted less loneliness at the end of the study, which, in turn was associated with greater social adaptation to university. Feelings of connection resulting from social daydreams were also associated with less emotional inertia in participants who reported being less socially adapted to university. Findings indicate that social daydreaming is functional for promoting socio-emotional adjustment to an important life event. We highlight the need to consider the social content of stimulus-independent cognitions, their characteristics, and patterns of change, to specify how social thoughts enable socio-emotional adaptation.
Individuals at risk for suicide experience periods of emotional, enduring, and vivid thoughts about their death by suicide and frequently report violent daydreams about death. Daydreaming is associated with forgetfulness and memory impairments. However, no studies have examined whether suicidal ideation is associated with deficits in everyday memory capabilities and whether violent daydreaming may influence these relationships. This study tested these hypotheses in a sample of 512 young adults. Self-report measures of subjective everyday memory capabilities, violent daydreaming, and suicidal ideation were administered. Results indicated that suicidal ideation and violent daydreaming were each significantly associated with greater impairments in everyday memory retrieval and everyday memory encoding (i.e., attentional tracking). Furthermore, violent daydreaming accounted for the relationship between suicidal ideation and impairments in everyday memory retrieval and memory encoding. Notably, findings remained after controlling for gender and depressive symptoms, a robust predictor of memory impairments. Implications and limitations are discussed.
Differences between nighttime REM and NREM dreams are well-established but only rarely are daytime REM and NREM nap dreams compared with each other or with daydreams. Fifty-one participants took daytime naps (with REM or NREM awakenings) and provided both waking daydream and nap dream reports. They also provided ratings of their bizarreness, sensory experience, and emotion intensity. Recall rates for REM (96%) and NREM (89%) naps were elevated compared to typical recall rates for nighttime dreams (80% and 43% respectively), suggesting an enhanced circadian influence. All attribute ratings were higher for REM than for NREM dreams, replicating findings for nighttime dreams. Compared with daydreams, NREM dreams had lower ratings for emotional intensity and sensory experience while REM dreams had higher ratings for bizarreness and sensory experience. Results support using daytime naps in dream research and suggest that there occurs selective enhancement and inhibition of specific dream attributes by REM, NREM and waking state mechanisms.
Poor sleep quality impairs cognition, including executive functions and concentration, but there has been little direct research on the relationships between sleep quality and mind wandering or daydreaming. Evening chronotype is associated with poor sleep quality, more mind wandering and more daydreaming; negative affect is also a mutual correlate. This exploratory study investigated how mind wandering and daydreaming are related to different aspects of sleep quality, and whether sleep quality influences the relationships between mind wandering/daydreaming and negative affect, and mind wandering/daydreaming and chronotype. Three surveys (Ns = 213; 190; 270) were completed with Chinese adults aged 18-50, including measures of sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, mind wandering, daydreaming, chronotype and affect (positive and negative). Higher frequencies of mind wandering and daydreaming were associated with poorer sleep quality, in particular with poor subjective sleep quality and increased sleep latency, night-time disturbance, daytime dysfunction and daytime sleepiness. Poor sleep quality was found to partially mediate the relationships between daydreaming and negative affect, and mind wandering and negative affect. Additionally, low positive affect and poor sleep quality, in conjunction, fully mediated the relationships between chronotype and mind wandering, and chronotype and daydreaming. The relationships between mind wandering/daydreaming and positive affect were also moderated by chronotype, being weaker in those with a morning preference. Finally, while daytime sleepiness was positively correlated with daydream frequency, it was negatively correlated with a measure of problem-solving daydreams, indicating that more refined distinctions between different forms of daydreaming or mind wandering are warranted. Overall, the evidence is suggestive of a bi-directional relationship between poor sleep quality and mind wandering/daydreaming, which may be important in attempts to deal with sleep problems and improve sleep quality. These findings and further research on this topic may also have implications for definitions and theories of mind wandering and daydreaming.