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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 2, 2005

THE PERIODICITY OF DREAMS.

Author Affiliations
 

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(5):632. doi:10.1001/jama.293.5.632-c

Dreams are experiences shared by all mankind and their pathologic importance in some cases has always been recognized. They seem, however, to follow no laws. At least this has been the generally accepted opinion. Recently, however, an Austrian investigator, Dr. Herman Swoboda, has claimed that dreams follow a certain periodicity, that certain impressions or events are revived in the visions of the night at regular intervals; in men usually every twenty-three and in women every twenty-eight days. He has been able to predict certain specified dreams, he claims, according to this law, and gives instances which, he thinks, substantiate his position. He also utilizes this periodicity to explain certain particular phenomena, such as premonitions of facts occurring at multiples of the stated periods. The suggestion is an interesting one, but it appears to us that it will require a very much more extensive series of observations before it can be accepted as a law. There are comparatively few of us that can recall our dreams unless they are especially impressive, and even such dreams are apt to be forgotten quickly. That they are connected with certain bodily conditions is generally agreed, and when these are of a cyclic or periodic character it would not be remarkable if they were accompanied with certain modifications of the subconscious intellection of the slumbering state. Even here, however, we have certain difficulties in the study. A German medical man of some prominence in science once reported that he and another colleague made a special study as to the periodicity of certain classes of dreams, but came to the conclusion that there was no general law controlling their appearance. It would be unorthodox to assert that premonitory dreams have not occurred in the past, but it would be exceedingly uncomfortable if we had to admit their frequent occurrence in the present. While the line of study opened up by Swoboda is a captivating one, we still prefer to keep our expectations moderate as to its results.

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