In the history of the discipline of psychology, dreams have enjoyed a prominent role. In the years since Freud published his influential “The Interpretation of Dreams” at the turn of the 20th century, researchers have sought to understand what our minds’ nocturnal ramblings mean. Whether our dreams are bizarre or banal, we’re eager to believe they reveal some deeper set of facts about ourselves. What do they tell us about our hopes and fears – the substance of our souls?
In this project, we set out to determine how often various dreams come to specific kinds of people. We asked over 1,000 Americans to undergo the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) personality test, a series of questions designed to reveal the characteristics of a person’s basic nature. Respondents then told us the dreams they had so that we could determine the personalities that most often experience particular types of dreams.
In presenting our results, we’ll refer to a few core “preferences” identified by the MBTI. Based on their answers, survey participants were identified as one of two types from each of the following preference groups. We’ve provided a basic description of each characteristic contrast below, taken directly from the MBTI website:
- Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
- Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in, or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?
This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
- Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people
and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
- Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided, or do you prefer to stay open
to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
We’ll discuss how these preferences can be combined to produce full personality types later. For now, let’s explore what people with each of these characteristics are most likely to dream about.
What We Do in Dreams
When we consider our first contrast between Extraversion and Introversion, we see how one’s orientation toward an inner or outer world might translate to dream content. Introverts were more likely to dream of being unable to influence the world around them and dreamed more often of punching without effect. Extroverts, however, dreamed of more active pursuits, such as traveling.
Those inclined toward Intuition were likely to dream of threatening outcomes, such as being attacked, or even killed. In fact, they were more likely to dream in every single way than their Sensing counterparts, whose personality type may indicate an instinctive resistance to fantasy of any kind. Judging types, who prefer a firm set of facts to possible ambiguities, were similarly less likely to dream of every single category than our Perceiving respondents.
The same cannot be said of the analytically inclined Thinking types, however. While they dreamed of many categories less often than Feeling respondents, they were actually more apt to dream of killing someone. Apparently, their comfort with logic and consistency has its limits in their sleep.
See You in My Dreams
Be it an enemy or acquaintance, the appearance of those we know in our dreams can be unnerving. In every preference grouping, one side was consistently more likely than the other to have such experiences. In keeping with their external orientation, Extraverted types were more likely to dream of every category of person than introverts were. They were more likely to dream of their bosses, which may reflect a sense of empowerment, according to some experts. Our Intuition group also dreamed of others more often than Sensing participants, perhaps indulging their habit of adding meaning to everyday encounters.
Similarly, Feeling types dreamed about the people in their lives with greater frequency, particularly within their families. They dreamed of siblings at least 10 percent more often than Thinkers. Perceivers were the more likely side to dream of others when compared to Judging types. Their parents will be glad to know that they see them relatively often in their sleep as well.
Sweet Dreams for Some?
Research shows people vary widely in their abilities to recall their dreams. Whether you’d like to probably depends on how pleasant or terrifying your nighttime fantasies tend to be. In our survey, Introverts were less likely than Extroverted people to remember their dreams. That may seem like a counterintuitive finding because Introverts are inherently sensitive to the workings of their own minds. Should they be interested in changing that trend, experts suggest that an intentional regimen can improve dream recall over time.
One group that seemed invested in remembering its dreams was our Feeling cohort, which was significantly more interested in the content of their nighttime fantasies than Thinking types. Perhaps that’s related to their propensity to recall what they dreamed the night before. Compared to Thinkers, Feeling people were able to retain memories of both positive dreams and nightmares more often. Whether their interest in their dreams was the cause of this recall – or vice versa – remains a compelling unknown in our findings.
Sleep researchers contend that nightmares occur most often before deep REM sleep kicks in. That could mean that the length and quality of our sleep could factor into the frequency of our bad dreams. Next, we’ll see how satisfied each personality type is with their average night’s sleep and how it relates to their energy during the day.
Sleep Quality by Personality
Introverts may have more than personal preference to blame for their tendency to separate themselves from the outside world. In our survey, they reported a more difficult time sleeping through the night than Extroverts and a lesser degree of focus and energy accordingly. While Extroverts reported higher alertness and energy during the day, that could reflect their relative enthusiasm for the interactions daily life entails.
Sensing types also reported more alertness and energy than Intuitive respondents did, which should serve them well in their tendency to absorb information available to them. In a more surprising finding, Judging types were actually less likely to get back to sleep after waking in the night. Given their preference for firm and swift decisions, one might assume they’d have less uncertainty keeping them up at night. Then again, uneasy sleep might be particularly troubling to them for that reason.
Let’s continue our analysis with a deeper look at the sleep quirks and problems that different personalities experience.
What Can Mess With Our Rest?
In the categories above, we see more evidence of an Introvert’s sleep challenges. Relative to Extroverted respondents, they experienced more nightmares and nodded off involuntarily with greater frequency. Feelers reported similar experiences compared to their Thinking counterparts and also said they talked in their sleep more often. In their own contrast with Sensing types, Intuitive participants were more prone to nightmares. Across these comparisons, the prevailing theme seems to relate sensitivity with sleep difficulty.
Perceiving people also reported they were likely to fall asleep when they’d like to stay awake to a greater extent than Judging respondents. But their answers also revealed a darker difference: Perceivers were more likely to experience night terrors. These two data points may relate, particularly if they’re nodding off due to sleep deprivation. The Mayo Clinic suggests a severe lack of sleep or disruptions to one’s sleep schedule are leading causes of “sleep terrors,” the clinical name for these terrifying experiences.
Putting Personalities Together
Thus far, we’ve studied how various personality characteristics correlate with dream and sleep experiences. But the MBTI goes even further, assessing an individual’s four “preferences” to develop comprehensive personality types. We identified each survey respondent with one of the 16 possible types and then drew conclusions about their dream and sleep patterns accordingly.
Many of these conclusions are compelling food for thought, but some lend themselves to interpretation more easily than others. For instance, the Entrepreneur’s tendency to dream about the future more than any other type makes intuitive sense, as does the Executive’s satisfactory energy levels. Similarly, no one is exactly surprised by the Protagonists’ capacity to recall their own dreams – they are the stars of their own shows, after all.
Other findings seem to indicate a private contrast with a given personality’s outward tendencies. How do we reconcile the Entertainer’s propensity to fall asleep unwillingly with that personality’s thirst for impressing others with their talents? What do we make of the Debater’s dreams of killing someone else? Research like ours may not neatly resolve these questions, but they do suggest possibilities for self-exploration. Perhaps we stand to learn from how our preferences confirm or clash with our unconscious in the world of sleep and dreams.
The Best Rest for Every Personality
No matter where you fall on the personality spectrum outlined above, each type possesses its own merits and potential challenges. No personality is better than any other: Analyzing these differences should simply allow us to understand each other better. Our findings reveal the vast diversity of our dreams and sleep habits, but none are cause for alarm or judgment. No matter the personality traits you exhibit, what you dream about is your business.
Our business is helping every kind of person get the best sleep possible. That’s why we’re constantly reviewing new sleep science and products – to assist you along the path to achieving incredible sleep. Visit Best Mattress Brand for help finding the perfect mattress for you, and more.
We administered an adapted version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) personality test to 1,000 Americans, using their answers to identify their preferences and personality types. We then asked a series of questions related to their sleep and dream experiences to produce the findings described. In the spirit of accuracy, we present only those results that qualified as statistically significant in the visualizations above.
Fair Use Statement
If you’re interested in sharing the content of this project, please feel free to utilize the visual assets presented above for noncommercial purposes. We simply ask that you credit Best Mattress Brand for this work by including a link to this page. No matter which personality type you identify with, we know you can appreciate giving credit where it’s due.