June 14, 2007— -- Whether it's Brad Pitt in a hot tub or Bill Clinton in the Oval Office, women dream about sex as often as men do, according to a new study.
In new research released Thursday, 109 women and 64 men recorded their dreams in a daily sleep log for two to four weeks. They submitted these accounts of their dreams, more than 3,500 in all, to researchers at the University of Montreal.
The dream logs were then scored on various scales according to the type of sexual activity, the setting and the characters involved.
Men's sex dreams were twice as likely to involve trysts with multiple partners, and were more likely to take place in public.
Women were twice as likely to dream about sex with public figures, according to the researchers.
Both men and women reported dreaming about sex about 8 percent of the time.
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"Observed gender differences may be indicative of different waking needs, experiences, desires and attitudes with respect to sexuality," said Antonio Zadra, the study's author, in a press release.
Current or past partners played a role in 20 percent of women's sex dreams, compared with 14 percent of men's dreams, according to the study, which was released at the annual meeting of the American Association of Sleep Professionals.
Sex experts agree that the findings fit with patterns of behavior during the waking hours.
"Men are often more visually focused in terms of fantasy, and women are more relationship-focused," says Eli Coleman, director of the program in human sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Zadra and other dream researchers say that dreams are often a continuation of waking thoughts -- something they call the continuity hypothesis.
"Dreams are going to do their own thing, whether we pay attention to them or not," says Rosalind Cartwright, professor of behavioral sciences and founder of the Sleep Disorder Service and Research Center at Rush University.
"It's our 24-hour business to keep our sense of who we are, how we're doing, and where we're going. It's a system for keeping us in balance and intact."
A similar study examining the dreams of men and women conducted 40 years ago found that women reported way fewer sexy dreams than men did. This led some behavioral scientists to assume that women did not fantasize as much about sex.
That might not have been the case; women at that time might have simply been too conservative to share their fantasies with researchers.
"Even if you dreamed about it, you didn't mention it," says dream expert Cartwright.
Things have certainly changed since that study four decades ago.
Today's world of constant references to sex in music, on television and on the Internet may create more racy images for the mind to raise during sleep -- or a more liberal atmosphere might just make it easier to discuss fantasies.
"There has been a huge change in the openness of people to report sexual fantasies, dreams and waking impulses," says Cartwright. "Today, it's just easier to express if you do have such dreams."