Alice Robb

Why We Dream

In the summer of 2011, science writer Alice Robb discovered a book called Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, which promised readers that they could control the plots of their dreams. That surprising notion led her to years of research into the nature of dreams and those who have studied them: the theories of Freud and Jung, the experiments in laboratory settings by scientists in recent decades, the nature of REM sleep, how nightmares differ from bad dreams, and other aspects of our nocturnal consciousness, which occupies nearly a third of our lives.

The result is a clear-eyed and entertaining book called Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). In our conversation, she tells us why dreams are important for our mental and physical well-being, how anxiety dreams can serve a function, the difference between bad dreams and nightmares, and how you can train yourself to prolong the phenomenon known as “lucid dreaming.” We discuss how creative people, writers and artists, have been able to make use of their dreams. And why you might want to consider keeping a dream journal.

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