ANTONIO ZADRA (University of Montreal): There is convincing evidence that leads us to believe that the content of dreams tell us a lot about how the brain can process information and is important for our psychological wellbeing.
NARRATOR: Antonio Zadra is a scientist in the University of Montreal's dream lab.
has collected over 6,000 REM and non-REM dreams, breaking down each one into its basic elements, and turning each element into a number.
: Well, what we did is we coded the entire dream series in terms of various elements.
Who are the characters, the emotions, the settings, things of that nature?
And then we entered these quantifications, these resulting numbers in our spreadsheet.
NARRATOR: The result of this painstaking work is a comprehensive database of our dream lives.
can tell us how often we dream about sex and whether this involves our partner or a celebrity.
can even tell us how often we have unpleasant dreams.
database is most revealing when telling us about the dreams of an individual.
: What we want to see is a whole series of dreams so that we can then detect patterns that recur over that entire dream series and thus get a better idea of what this person's dream life is generally like.
: "B and I are making breakfast.
I was also brewing some coffee, but when I looked over at the coffee maker it was..."
NARRATOR: "It was overflowing.
There was coffee all over the counter and coffee just kept pouring out."
: "B was yelling, 'What did you do, what did you do?' I tried unplugging it."
NARRATOR: "I removed the glass container, but it wouldn't stop."
mother arrives; he's
unconsolable, and parents, too.
: "When I tried to move the car the wheels just kept spinning."
NARRATOR: "B was getting very upset and was telling me there was still too much snow.
I got out again and everything seemed okay."
: "I got back in, but nothing happened, just more spinning."
NARRATOR: In fact 80 percent of this man's dreams include unhappy events.
research reveals that the average occurrence of misfortune in the dreams of middle-aged men is only 34 percent.
: The other thing that really stands out with his
dream series is that almost all of the other dream characters in his
dreams are women-there's an, almost an absence of male figures-and the interactions he
has with these women is almost invariably negative.
NARRATOR: Again, the frequency of these negative dreams is abnormally high.
: If I were to make an educated guess about what is going on in this particular man's life, is that there seems to be concerns about relationship issues, and also he
is definitely overwhelmed by factors which are impacting him negatively but which he
has no control over.
NARRATOR: So it came as no surprise to Zadra
to learn that five years later the man divorced.
has worked out the norm for many dream events.
Only 20 percent of women's dreams about sex, for example, involve their partners, but dreaming men are worse, coupling faithfully just one out of seven times.
Thirty-three percent of our dreams involve unhappy events.
And while some dreams are outlandish, most are more a reflection of our waking concerns.
: Dreams are relatively transparent.