A Near Death Experience (NDE) often has a profound “aftereffect” on the individual, changing his or her worldview – often in a beneficial way. The current pilot study is the fi rst to study the effects of NDEs on subsequent dream contents. Overall, 46 individuals completed an online questionnaire. The findings indicate that NDEs resulted in significantly a) more positive dreams, b) more vivid dreams, c) improved dream recall, d) an increased number of spiritual dreams, e) an increased interest in dreams, and f) an increased interest in the dreams of others; results that are consistent with the continuity hypothesis of dreaming. As the pilot study indicated that NDEs also have profound effects on the dream life of the individual, more in-depth studies are warranted.
Near Death Experiences (NDEs) can occur in individuals who have come close to dying and are often characterized by sense of peace and quiet, pain is no longer felt, out-of body experiences, modified time perceptions, meeting with deceased persons, or being immersed in a brilliant light (Van Lommel, 2010). In 95% of the world’s cultures references to NDEs have been found (Zingrone, 2009). Nine prospective studies from four different countries report NDE incidences of 17% amongst critically ill patients and 10-20% of those who have come close to death due to accidents or other causes (Greyson, 2014). Up to 10% of the general population have reported to have had a NDE (Kondziella, & Harboe Olsen, 2019). The models and hypotheses of NDE etiology varies from metaphysical, biological, spiritual and transcendental approaches as well as others; for a detailed discussion see: Van Lommel (2010). Research has also indicated that NDEs can have profound so-called “aftereffects”, most often beneficial, including a new attitude towards life and death, human relations, and spirituality (Greyson, 1997; Parnia, & Fenwick, 2002).
With respect to dreams and dreaming, in 1989 Sutherland reported on the results of interviews she carried out personally with 40 persons who had had NDEs 2 or more years previously. Of the 37 who were asked about dreams, 43% said that they had been aware of their dreams before their NDE and this figure increased to 73% afterward. In 2004 Britton and Bootzin published the results of an investigation in which they compared the sleep laboratory EEG results from 43 NDErs with those of 20 control persons matched for age and gender. They found that while REM latency (the length of time between sleep onset and the beginning of the first REM phase) increased for NDErs, the percentages of time spent in the REM phases were roughly the same for both groups. Since dream recall is usually easier when awakened from REM sleep (Schredl & Olbrich, 2019) it appears their results do not support the results that Sutherland obtained. Apparently, however, no one as yet has studied the effects of NDEs on dream content.
As an initial step toward addressing this topic, the pilot study investigated whether individuals who experienced a NDE observed aftereffects on their dream life. Based on the continuity hypothesis of dreaming (Schredl, 2003), it was hypothesized that the beneficial effects of NDEs on waking life would be reflected in dreams, i.e., more positive dreams that include spiritual topics more often.