Abstract Although the emotional and motivational characteristics of dreaming have figured prominently in folk and psychoanalytic conceptions of dream production, emotions have rarely been systematically studied, and motivation, never. Because emotions during sleep lack the somatic components of waking emotions, and they change as the sleeper awakens, their properties are difficult to assess. Recent evidence of limbic system activation during REM sleep suggests a basis in brain architecture for the interaction of motivational and cognitive properties in dreaming. Motivational and emotional content in REM and NREM laboratory mentation reports from 25 participants were compared. Motivational and emotional content was significantly greater in REM than NREM sleep, even after controlling for the greater word count of REM reports.