Physical pain, mental pain and malaise in dreams

  • Inga Sophia Knoth (Author)
  • Michael Schredl (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Research has been able to show that pain is rare but perceptible in dreams. Three explanations for pain dreams are postulated: incorporation of pain during sleep, memories of self-experienced pain (first-person memories), and pain seen in others (third-person memories). A total sum of 1612 diary dreams assessed from 425 participants within 14 days were analyzed concerning physical pain, mental pain and malaise. The findings partly support the continuity hypothesis, because participants who experienced headaches in waking life tend to have pain dreams more often. On the other hand, high scores of neuroticism predicted the occurrence of mental pain dreams, but not physical pain dreams. A relationship between malaise dreams and malaise in the waking state could not be confirmed. Findings support that pain dreams tend to be based on pain memory rather than on incorporation, whereas unrealistic pain dreams indicate a possible effect of pain seen in others. To expand the present findings, a diary study with a daily checklist eliciting self-experienced pain, illness, injuries, pain seen in others, and pain noticed in media is suggested.


pain, pain dreams, continuity hypothesis, mental pain, physical pain, malaise
How to Cite
Knoth, I. S., & Schredl, M. (2011). Physical pain, mental pain and malaise in dreams. International Journal of Dream Research, 4(1), 17–23.