Dean Cruess

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20042005 Forum on Sleep and Dreams

Dean Cruess

Assistant Professor, Psychology

Dreaming and Expressive Writing (journaling)

Studies have found that expressive writing (or journaling) can reduce stress and improve a person’s mental and physical health. Such studies typically require people to write about the most traumatic or stressful event in their lives for 15–20 minutes over a period of three consecutive days. Although this technique has helped people, not much is known about what actually causes them to feel better. One theory is that it helps people confront unresolved issues and make sense or meaning out of them. Some have compared expressive writing to free association, producing a catharsis and insight into some previously unresolved issue. A major theory regarding dreams also suggests that the act of dreaming allows us to process things that consciously we often cannot, perhaps making sense or constructing meaning out of the events in our lives in a symbolic way. 

In this Project, Dr. Cruess builds on earlier work in which he explores the connection between expressive writing, dreaming, and sleep. Results will provide the basis for a larger study to evaluate physical and mental health outcomes.