The best books on the science of dreams

Who am I?

Although I had many intriguing dreams during my childhood, including fantastic flying dreams, the idea of becoming a sleep scientist never crossed my mind. All that changed during my first year in college. It was then that I experienced an exceptionally long and vivid lucid dream that changed my life; it was because of this dream that I decided to become a dream researcher. Today, I’m a professor of psychology at the University of Montreal, director of the department’s Dream Research Laboratory, and have published over 100 scientific articles and book chapters on sleep and dreams. I don’t have as many flying dreams as I once did, but I do have a really cool job while awake. 


I wrote...

When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep

By Antonio Zadra, Robert Stickgold,

Book cover of When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep

What is my book about?

Questions on the origins and meaning of dreams are as old as humankind, and as confounding and exciting today as when nineteenth-century scientists first attempted to unravel them. Why do we dream? Do dreams hold psychological meaning or are they merely the reflection of random brain activity? What purpose do dreams serve?

When Brains Dream addresses these core questions about dreams while covering the most up-to-date science in the field. Co-written with my long-time friend and fellow sleep and dream researcher, Robert Stickgold, this book debunks common myths about dreams, reveals recent discoveries about the sleeping brain, explains the many ways in which dreams are psychologically and neurologically meaningful, and details how dreams can facilitate creativity and be a source of personal insight. Making an engaging case for why the human brain needs to dream When Brains Dream offers compelling answers to age-old questions about the mysteries of dreams.

The books I picked & why

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Dreams And How To Guide Them: Practical Observations

By Léon d'Hervey de Saint-Denys,

Book cover of Dreams And How To Guide Them: Practical Observations

Why this book?

Have you ever wondered what happens to our mind as we fall asleep? Or whether we can experience things in dreams that we never experienced in waking life? Jean Marie Léon d’Hervey de Saint-Denys tackled these and other questions like them in his remarkable 1867 book, Dreams and How to Guide Them. Saint-Denys used his finely-honed skills as a lucid dreamer (knowing that you are dreaming while still in the dream) to investigate dreams from within, exploring their images, memory sources, and inner logic as they unfolded before (or, rather, behind) his eyes. More amazing still, some 150 years later, many of his Saint-Denys’s ideas can still be found in modern clinical and scientific theories of dreams. 

Dreams And How To Guide Them: Practical Observations

By Léon d'Hervey de Saint-Denys,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dreams And How To Guide Them as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hervey de Saint-Denys (Marie-Jean-Léon, Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys) published this book in 1867, and since then it has become one of the forerunners of the study of lucid dreaming.

This is one of the few 19th century works that has lost none of its freshness or usefulness with the passage of time, due to the author's entirely practical foundation.

In the second part of this work, devoted mainly to a history of professed views on sleep and dreams from antiquity to modern times, the author expounds his own ideas, based on numerous practical observations, supporting with ample evidence his…


The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

By C.G. Jung, Gerhard Adler (translator),

Book cover of The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Why this book?

Jung proposed many fascinating ideas about the inner workings of the mind. His concept of the archetypes and of the collective unconscious are two of his best-known contributions, and both are intimately tied to his conceptualization of dreams. The idea that dreams not only emanate from our personal unconscious, but also from our collective unconscious (a deep stratum of the unconscious common to all humankind) and contain universal patterns, images, and dispositions, has helped countless people develop a deeper understanding of their dreams.

What’s more, this book exposes Jung’s view of dreaming as a wholesome, natural process that can give rise to creative—even transcendent—experiences featuring personal challenges, unmapped potentials, and elements of one’s personality. Not always the easiest of reads, but highly rewarding. 

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

By C.G. Jung, Gerhard Adler (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Essays which state the fundamentals of Jung's psychological system: "On the Psychology of the Unconscious" and "The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious," with their original versions in an appendix.


Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming

By Stephen LaBerge, Howard Rheingold,

Book cover of Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming

Why this book?

Considered by many as a classic in the field, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming presents a practical and insightful approach to lucid dreaming (knowing that you are dreaming while still in the dream) and its applications. Blending dream science, personal experiences, and non-traditional approaches to dream exploration, Laberge, who earned his PhD studying the psychophysiology of lucid dreams while at Stanford University, weaves a broad and captivating account of how to train yourself to have lucid dreams, how to use dream lucidity to explore your dreams, and how these experiences can give rise to creative problem solving and personal growth. A must-read for anyone interested in lucid dreaming.

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming

By Stephen LaBerge, Howard Rheingold,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“[A] solid how-to book . . . For amateur dream researchers, this is a must.”—Whole Earth Review
 
Lucid Dreaming—conscious awareness during the dream state—is an exhilarating experience. Because the world you are experiencing is one of your own creation, you can do the impossible and consciously influence the outcome of your dreams.
 
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming goes far beyond the confines of pop dream psychology, establishing a scientifically researched framework for using lucid dreaming. Based on Dr. Stephen LaBerge’s extensive laboratory work at Stanford University mapping mind/body relationships during the dream state, as well as the teachings of…


The Psychology of Dreaming

By Josie Malinowski,

Book cover of The Psychology of Dreaming

Why this book?

This book, written by an actual dream researcher, presents a smart and easy-to-read introduction to the psychology of dreams. Covering topics like the history of dreaming, how dreams are scientifically studied, how to work with dreams for personal insight, the possible functions of dreams, lucid dreaming, nightmares, and what the future of dream research may hold, Malinowski does a commendable job of introducing the reader to a wealth of information about dreams. Complete with personal examples, eye-opening insights, and a thoughtful discussion of ethical questions surrounding emerging dream-related technologies, this delightful book is sure to please those looking for an engaging introduction to dreams.

The Psychology of Dreaming

By Josie Malinowski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Psychology of Dreaming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do we dream? What is the connection between our dreams and our mental health? Can we teach ourselves to have lucid dreams?

The Psychology of Dreaming delves into the last 100 years of dream research to provide a thought-provoking introduction to what happens in our minds when we sleep. It looks at the role that dreaming plays in memory, problem-solving, and processing emotions, examines how trauma affects dreaming, and explores how we can use our dreams to understand ourselves better. Exploring extraordinary experiences like lucid dreaming, precognitive dreams, and sleep paralysis nightmares, alongside cutting-edge questions like whether it will…


The Neuroscience of Sleep and Dreams

By Patrick McNamara,

Book cover of The Neuroscience of Sleep and Dreams

Why this book?

Written by a well-known sleep and dream scientist, this book provides a comprehensive introduction to the neuroscience of sleep and dreams. In addition to covering a wide range of neuroscientific ideas and discoveries, this well-organized and easy to follow book discusses many of these sleep and dream-related findings within larger social as well as evolutionary contexts. The end result is a stimulating and enriching take on our current understanding of the science of sleep and dreams.

The Neuroscience of Sleep and Dreams

By Patrick McNamara,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Neuroscience of Sleep and Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides a complete introduction to the neuroscience of sleep and dreams in plain language. In it, Patrick McNamara outlines new discoveries in the science of sleep and dreams, places them within an evolutionary context, and brings them together with existing scientific findings and implications for sleep medicine. Unlike other introductory texts, the important evolutionary background and social nature of sleep and dreams is emphasized. Major advances in sleep medicine, sleep and memory, dream content analyzes, brain correlates of sleep stages and lifespan development of sleep are covered in depth. While the text is geared towards students, the general…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dreams, archetypes, and neuroscience?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dreams, archetypes, and neuroscience.

Dreams Explore 44 books about dreams
Archetypes Explore 23 books about archetypes
Neuroscience Explore 94 books about neuroscience

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat And Other Clinical Tales, The Doors of Perception, and The Terror That Comes in the Night if you like this list.