It’s the end of the day. You’re probably tired from hard work at school or a job, and you’re looking to recharge your batteries. You start to unwind, you settle into bed, and it feels great. You close your eyes and drift off into the various stages of sleep and perhaps you start to dream.
Dreams are the images, thoughts, and sounds that go through our minds while we sleep, and there’s actually a lot more to them than you may think! Here are some interesting facts you might not know about the dreaming:
1. Lucid dreaming is not common
A lucid dream is when there is “a communication from the dream to the outside world, while the dream was happening” (LaBerge). Put simply, it is when a person knows that they’re dreaming. A person can even control what takes place in the dream if it is a lucid one. Many people have heard of this phenomenon but not many people actually experience it. In their study titled “General Knowledge About Lucid Dreaming” published in 2018, the scientists on the Lucid Dream Research team concluded that only about 20 percent of people lucid dream.
2. Dreaming is crucial for our health
It has become clear to researchers that we actually need to dream, as it “serves its own important functions in our well-being” (Greater Good Magazine). We know that the less we sleep, the more susceptible we are to heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s. But it’s more than just the sleep deprivation that leads to problems –it’s the lack of dreaming as well. If we are deprived of deep REM sleep and the dreams it allows, it becomes difficult to go about doing what we have to do. This is because dreaming helps restore our brains, actually healing by allowing us to subconsciously process things, work through real-life fears, and reorganize memories.
3. Dream journals improve how well we remember our dreams
There have probably been times you’ve woken up in the morning knowing you had a dream but unable to actually remember it. It happens frequently to most people because no matter how memorable the dream might have been, we can’t help but lost so many of the details upon waking. Being able to recall dreams is actually a skill that can be improved. You can do this by jotting down everything you remember about your dreams upon waking up each day, so be sure to keep a pen and paper by your bed at night!
4. Dreams get more complex as the night goes on
The longer we’re sleeping, the weirder our dreams become. More than this, while they’re getting more bizarre, they start to be more vivid and even more emotional. This is most likely attributed to the fact that we achieve deeper sleep the longer we sleep, which allows us to process things, work through fears, and reorganize memories more intensely than in lighter sleep.
5. Even animals dream
Dreams are a human experience that we all share (even when people say they don’t dream, in reality, they just forget their dreams by the time they wake up). It isn’t only us humans that dream, though. Have you ever seen your pet dog twitch or make sounds in its sleep? It’s because they’re dreaming, just like we do. This is true of most mammals, and even some reptiles. In fact, in an MTI study, researchers tested this concept on rats. As they observed the sleep cycles of the rats, they simultaneously recorded their brain activity, ultimately finding that the activity matched what it does as the rats are running. This indicates that the rats do in fact dreams. (MIT News)
6. Brain injuries may prevent dreams
There’s an exception to the “everyone dreams” rule. People who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury may find that they no longer dream. This is potentially a result of damage to the part of the brain that involved in emotion, memory, and imagination (Psychology Today).
7. We have multiple dreams a night
We typically have four to six dreams every night for anywhere from a minute to twenty minutes each. This is made possible by the fact that sleep happens in cycles; people typically get to REM sleep, which is required for dreams to happen, about the same amount of times a night. So if we look at it in terms of time, in an eight hour sleep period, a person might spend two of them dreaming. (Sleep.org)
8. Scientists are still learning more about dreams
Dreams are an incredibly interesting aspect of psychology. An early psychologist Freud famously studied their interpretation and how it relates to our unconscious minds, although the fascination with dreams can actually be dated back many years prior. So it’s no surprise that we’re still trying to learn as much as we can about them. Our understanding of dreams is constantly expanding. Researchers are currently studying what dreams actually are, the relationship between neurophysiology and dream psychoanalysis, the brain waves that are involved in dreaming, and so on.
LaBerge, Stephen. Lucid Dreaming. Ballantine Books, 1986.
\Neuhäusler, Annabelle, et al. “General Knowledge about Lucid Dreaming and Lu-Cid Dream Induction Techniques: An Online Study.” International Journal of Dream Research, 2018.
“Observing the Damaged Brain for Clues about Dreaming.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201506/observing-the-damaged-brain-clues-about-dreaming.
Office, News. “Animals Have Complex Dreams, MIT Researcher Proves.” MIT News, 24 Jan. 2001, http://news.mit.edu/2001/dreaming.
SHFAustralia. “Facts About Dreaming.” The Sleep Health Foundation, https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/facts-about-dreaming.html.
Stibich, Mark. “Why Do People Dream During the REM Stage of Sleep?” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 14 Oct. 2019, https://www.verywellmind.com/understanding-dreams-2224258.
“Understanding Sleep Cycles.” Sleep.org, https://www.sleep.org/articles/what-happens-during-sleep/.
Walker, Matthew, et al. “Why Your Brain Needs to Dream.” Greater Good, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_your_brain_needs_to_dream.