The Sleep and Dream Database

A digital archive offers new tools for the scientific study of dreams.

Posted Mar 30, 2015

Kelly Bulkeley
Source: Kelly Bulkeley

An upgraded website and user interface for the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb) has just been launched.  The SDDb is a digital archive and search engine I began developing in 2009 to promote the scientific study of dreams.  The SDDb holds a collection of more than 20,000 dream reports from a variety of sources, including personal diaries, opinion surveys, cultural texts, and psychological experiments.  It is a free, open access resource for empirical research using simple yet powerful and highly flexible tools of analysis.

The new design of the website makes it easier for students, researchers, and anyone interested in dreams to use these tools.  There are two basic functions in the SDDb.  The first is “Survey Analysis,” and it allows you to compare people’s answers to questions about their sleep and dreams.  For example, you can compare the dream recall frequencies of men and women.  Or you can compare the insomnia frequencies of people from lower and higher levels of annual income.  There are many other possibilities. The SDDb includes the results of demographic surveys of several thousand American adults, providing a large amount of data for this function. (Please be patient with the system; it sometimes takes 60 seconds or more to perform a complicated analysis.)

The second major function of the SDDb is “Word Searching,” which enables you to search for specific kinds of dream content.  For example, you can look at all the references to “death” in a collection of highly memorable dreams.  Or you can study “water” references in a long-term series from a particular individual. To search the dreams, you can create your own strings of words, or you can use the built-in SDDb template of 40 categories I have developed to make it easier to search for certain kinds of dream content (like “death” and “water”).

The SDDb is, and perhaps will always be, a work in progress.  I am continually uploading new material, tweaking the analytic functions, and changing features of the user interface to make the system easier to navigate.  

With the upgraded website in place (thanks to Graybox and Kurt Bollacker), many new projects will become easier to develop and share with others.  In future posts I will talk about these projects in more detail, giving examples of specific applications of these tools in the study of dreams.