Dreams are downright fascinating. If you’ve ever questioned your creativity, just think of the stories your mind concocts while you’re fast asleep. Although the act of dreaming may seem mysterious, we actually know quite a lot about the topic, thanks to sleep and dream science.
Here at Pillow Picker, our mission isn’t only to find the best pillow. We’re also delving into the intriguing world of dreams to bring you the latest and greatest information about this captivating topic. Read on to learn some seriously interesting facts backed by reputable sources.
1. The Deeper the Sleep, the More Vivid the Dreams
Although dreaming takes place throughout the sleep cycle, people are most likely to experience vivid dreams during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, according to Psychology Today. Because adults spend approximately 25-percent of their sleep time in REM sleep, vivid dreams can occur multiple times each night.
2. Dreams Serve as Problem Solvers
If an assignment at school or work has you stumped, you may want to sleep on it. A piece published by Time on the meaning of dreams notes a study in which 99 individuals were asked to make their way through a three-dimensional maze. During a scheduled 90-minute break period, some of the participants were encouraged to nap, while others stayed awake. The nappers who dreamt about the maze navigated the task better upon waking than their non-napping counterparts.
Similarly, students who are preparing for a test tend to have a better grasp of the material after sleeping. Those who dream about the subject they’ve been studying have even better recognition.
3. Dream Interpretation Isn’t Always Complex
There are countless resources to help dream enthusiasts interpret their wildest dreams. We’re particularly fond of the best-selling classic, 12,000 Dreams Interpreted.
According to Time, however, interpreting our dreams isn’t necessarily a complex process. In fact, our dreams may give us clues to unfulfilled wishes.
“Dreams about flying may represent a desire for freedom,” the popular publication notes. “Dreams about finding new rooms in your home may express a desire for opportunity or novelty.”
A thought-provoking article by the Huffington Post highlights 14 common dreams and what they likely mean. The vast majority of the interpretations are surprisingly simple. For instance, if you dream of being chased, something you’re avoiding in your waking hours may need to be addressed.
Tip: If you struggle to remember your dreams, consider keeping a notebook or dream journal on your bedside table. The Knock Knock Dream Journal includes space for recording your dreams, reflecting, and even an area for sketching.
4. Dreams May Lead to Better Physical and Mental Health
If you’re regularly startled awake just before falling into REM sleep, you may suffer some serious health consequences. WebMD recalls a study in which participants were prompted to wake up before reaching the deepest stage of sleep. Test subjects reported increased tension, anxiety and depression, as well as difficulty concentrating, weight gain, and even hallucinations. For the best overall health, regular deep sleep is key.
5. Dreams Can Be a Sign of Underlying Stress or Anxiety
One of the most interesting findings about dreams is that many people experience them similarly. Have you ever been on the brink of sleep and had a dream of falling? You’re not alone. Many folks report dreams of falling, being naked in public, or losing their teeth. Although specific meanings of these dreams vary based on the individual’s circumstances, all of these dreams can often be linked to stress or anxiety, according to WebMD.
If you’re experiencing disturbing dreams, consider prioritizing self-care, and be sure to tackle any stressors during your waking hours.
6. Nightmares Have Many Causes
If you’ve experienced a vivid nightmare, you know how unsettling bad dreams can be. Illness can trigger disconcerting dreams, as can emotional issues, trauma, conflict or fear, and medication or drugs, reports WebMD.
If you experience frequent nightmares and are unable to link your bad dreams to a specific trigger, consider consulting a healthcare professional. Nightmares can wreak havoc on your sleep, which can lead to ongoing health problems.
7. Lucid Dreaming is Largely Misunderstood
Many folks believe that lucid dreams are simply vivid, intense dreams. In actuality, lucid dreams are dreams you are aware of having while you’re having them. Individuals who experience lucid dreams often try to control them.
In an enlightening interview with Psychology Today, dream expert Beverly D’Urso explains that lucid dreaming allows people to take part in activities that would be dangerous in real life. “You cannot taste fire or fly to the sun or have sex with strangers without potential serious consequences,” she shares. “But you can do all that in your dreams.”
D’Urso notes that lucid dreaming can result in a more enlightened life. People who experience these dreams tend to live in the moment without past or future distractions interfering in their everyday lives.
Thankfully, lucid dreamers are aware that they are indeed dreaming, so there’s virtually no chance of these individuals attempting to act out their dreams, according to the dream expert.
8. Dreams Can Influence Future Behavior
Surprisingly, dreams can have a big impact on people’s actions. A 2009 press release from the American Psychological Association highlights how judgment and behavior can be influenced by dreams.
The press release notes one study in which 182 individuals were surveyed at a train station in Boston. Those conducting the study instructed some of the commuters to imagine a national threat due to a heightened chance of a terrorist attack. Others were asked to think of their plane crashing, while another group was prompted to imagine dreaming of a plane crash. Shockingly, those who dreamt of a plane crash felt a similar amount of anxiety as those who imagined a plane actually crashing.
Many people believe our dreams are an indicator of future events, and so it makes sense that dreams—good or bad—can affect our future decisions and actions.
Unfortunately, the “dreams do come true” theory continues to be a topic of debate among researchers. It’s fun to imagine, however, that a dream of winning the lottery or vacationing on an exotic island could one day come to life.
9. Forgetting Dreams is Perfectly Normal
Many individuals never remember their dreams. Most everyone dreams, however… even those folks who never recall dreaming. Live Science reports that the hippocampus, which moves short-term memory to long-term memory, may be fast asleep when dreams are likely to be transferred to our long-term memory bank. The article explains that the hippocampus is one of the last parts of the brain to go to sleep, so it may also be among the last to wake up, leaving our dreams virtually lost in space.
The brain’s neurotransmitters could also be blamed for our inability to recall our dreams. Two of these neurotransmitters—acetylcholine and noradrenaline—dip when we drift off to sleep, Live Science explains. Because these transmitters play an important role in recalling memories, and noradrenaline levels remain low even during REM sleep, it’s understandable that we have difficulty recalling even our most lifelike dreams.
To boost your chances of remembering your dreams, lie still with your eyes closed upon waking and actively try to tap into your memory. Harvard psychiatry professor Robert Stickgold also recommends drinking a glass of water before drifting off to sleep, as “middle-of-the-night awakenings are frequently accompanied by dream recall,” he once told The New York Times.
Looking for additional tips to help you recall your dreams?
- Wake up naturally: Skip the alarm clock to improve your chances of remembering last night’s dreams.
- Set an intention: Before you snooze, prompt yourself to recall your dreams the next morning. Setting an intention to remember may help you jog your memory upon waking.
- Make it a habit: Always jot down any recollections you have of your dreams right after waking. While memories of some dreams may resurface unexpectedly during the day, your best chance of recalling them is first thing after waking.
10. Brain Activity Differs Among People Who Regularly Recall Their Dreams
It’s no surprise that all individuals have their own unique dream recall frequency (DRF). According to a study published on nature.com, those who tend to remember their dreams have a higher amount of regional cerebral blood flow during sleep, as well as during their waking hours.
11. Stressful Dreams Cause a Similar Physical Reaction as Real-Life Situations
Believe it or not, a nerve-wracking nightmare affects the body as if it were an actual stress-inducing situation. In a 2014 Huffington Post article on dreams, clinical psychologist Rubin Naiman shed light on why people often awaken with lingering feelings related to their dreams. “The experience we have in the dream registers in the body and in the brain in almost exactly the same way,” notes the expert. He adds that heart rate and blood pressure can actually increase during a stressful dream.
12. Dreams Can Last Up To a Full Hour
Many dreamers assume their dreams take place in a matter of seconds to just a few minutes. In reality, dreams can last up to 60 minutes, according to Naiman. Throughout the sleep process, dreams tend to get longer. While you may experience a two or three minute dream just after drifting off to sleep, your dreams are likely to lengthen throughout the night.
13. Not Everyone Dreams in Color
Do you dream in color, or are your nighttime reveries limited to shades of gray? The Alaska Sleep Education Center compiled a list of strange and unusual facts about dreams, and interestingly, 12-percent of folks dream in black and white.
14. The Average Person Will Spend Six Years of His or Her Life Dreaming
Most people have heard that the average individual spends one-third of his or her life sleeping, but did you know that you’ll likely spend six years of your life in a dream state? Along with an extensive (and free!) dream dictionary, Dreammoods.com has published some seriously interesting tidbits related to sleep and dreams. According to the site, people spend over 2,100 days in dreamland throughout their lifetime.
15. Sight Isn’t the Only Sense We Utilize in Our Dreams
Following a vivid dream, you’ll likely remember the visual experience, but other senses can play a part in the dream process. Dreammoods.com explains that even blind people dream. And while those who are born without sight may not see images in their dreams, they are likely to experience dreams using their sense of touch, sound, and smell.
16. The Term “Dream” Has Interesting Roots
It’s unknown where the word “dream” originated, though it has been linked to Danish, Swedish, and Old Saxon terms. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word’s Old English origins are tied to “joy, mirth, and noisy merriment,” as well as “music.”
17. Déjà Vu is Common in Dreams
Most folks recall experiencing déjà vu while awake, but did you know that it’s possible to experience the phenomenon while sleeping? Dreammoods.com cites a poll in which 67-percent of Americans recall déjà vu within a dream.
18. The Body Becomes Temporarily Paralyzed During REM Sleep
If you’re concerned that a vivid dream or nightmare will cause you to thrash around in your sleep, rest assured that your muscles essentially shut down during your deepest sleep stages. A 2017 article by Live Science highlights the topic of sleep paralysis—a condition that causes the body to become temporarily paralyzed after waking from a deep sleep. Thankfully, only 8-percent of the population suffer from sleep paralysis. Conversely, the vast majority of people do not act out their dreams involuntarily.
19. You Can’t Read In Your Dreams
Just about anything can happen in a dream, but according to Bookriot.com, reading isn’t one of them. Books or signs may indeed enter your dreams, but if you look very closely, you’ll notice an absence of letters or words, or they’ll simply be illegible.
Interestingly, the brain’s logic and intellect essentially take a nap while we’re dreaming. Perhaps this is why we tend to be more carefree in our dreams than we are in real life.
Along with being unable to read text, it’s impossible to read a clock while dreaming. And if you glance at yourself in the mirror, the image reflected will be a blur, or it will show someone else entirely.
20. Dreams Have Led to Notable Inventions
Let’s give credit where credit is due… Dreams are responsible for some truly amazing inventions. A 2017 piece published by the Huffington Post highlights eight fascinating famous ideas that were sparked by dreams. Below are a few examples:
- The idea for the critically-acclaimed 2010 sci-fi thriller Inception was born from a series of lucid dreams experienced by the film’s director, Christopher Nolan.
- Legendary Beatle Paul McCartney dreamt up the melody for the band’s hit song “Yesterday” back in 1964.
- One of the most famous poets of all time, Edgar Allan Poe, often found inspiration for his work in his sleep. It is well documented that the poet suffered with nightmares throughout his lifetime.
- While recovering from an accident in 1999, award-winning author Stephen King experienced vivid dreams. Thanks to those dreams, the novelist came up with the premise for his 2001 book, “Dreamcatcher,” which has a total of 620 pages and was written in just half a year.
21. Premonition Dreams Do Happen
Have you ever dreamt of an event that later came true? An Epoch Times article notes several celebrities who have experienced this exact phenomenon. Perhaps the most notable of all is the story of Abraham Lincoln, who (eerily!) foresaw his assassination. The former president was traveling on the River Queen ship back in 1865, where he dreamt of his death just days before it actually happened.
22. Some People Do Act Out Their Dreams
As mentioned previously, very few people act out their dreams. A small percentage of individuals sleepwalk, however, and even fewer of these folks engage in bizarre behavior while dreaming.
Lifehack.org recollects a trio of cases in which sleepwalkers partook in strange (and dangerous) activities, including:
- A female sleepwalker engaging in sexual activities with complete strangers.
- A sleepwalker who decided to take a stroll out of his third-story window.
- A male sleepwalker who drove a considerable distance and proceeded to kill his cousin.
23. People Who Don’t Dream Lack Creativity
While the majority of people dream, those who never slip into a dream state lack creativity and creative problem-solving skills, Lifehack.org reports.
If you’re unsure whether you experience dreams, be sure to keep a notebook within reach, and jog your memory for dreams before climbing out of bed.
24. We Experience More Negative Events in Our Dreams Than in Real Life
Studies show that our dreams tend to be more negative than our real lives. Tandfonline.com published a fascinating study back in 2008, which concluded that threatening events are overrepresented in dreams when compared to real-life scenarios.
If you’ve ever “woken up on the wrong side of the bed,” you may have been suffering the aftereffects of a bad dream.
25. Men and Women Have Different Dream Themes
Gender plays a part in the people, places, and things we tend to dream about. According to Lifehack.org, 70-percent of the people men dream about are male, while women dream equally about folks of both genders. The site also notes that men’s dreams include more aggressive behavior. And although it is widely believed that men have more sexual dreams than women, both men and women experience dreams about sex in equal measure.
26. We Only Dream About Faces We’ve Seen
It may seem strange, but our minds are incapable of creating new faces while dreaming. In other words, you’ve already met (or at least seen) every person you dream about.
BU.edu explains that memorizing a face can be a subconscious experience, so while you may not consciously remember a face you see in a dream, you’ve likely crossed that person’s path in person, or seen them on TV or social media, etc.
27. Symbolism is a Normal Theme in Dreams
You may wake up after a confusing dream and recall strange or unusual symbols, people, or events. Keep in mind that we often dream of symbols, so that puzzling dream about fire may actually symbolize passion, desire, transformation, or anger, according to dreammoods.com.
28. Yes, Babies Dream
Believe it or not, babies begin dreaming even before they’re born. Babble.com shares that in the third trimester of pregnancy, babies in the womb sleep the majority of the time, 50-percent of which is REM sleep. Newborns spend 25-percent more time in REM sleep than adults, so your little bundle of joy is spending a good portion of his or her sleep time dreaming.
While much research has been done on babies’ sleep patterns, the subject matter of their dreams is still a mystery.
29. Your Fur Babies Dream, Too
If you’re the proud owner of a cat or dog, you’ve probably witnessed your beloved pet dreaming. Tiny paw twitches and startled snores are common among canines and felines.
We can’t help but wonder what themes make up our cats and dogs’ dreams. Globalanimal.org did their research, and while it’s unclear what animals dream about, adult dogs only spend approximately 10 to 12-percent of their sleeping hours in REM sleep. That percentage is much higher for cuddly kittens and puppies.
Fun fact: The duck-billed platypus spends more time in the REM sleep stage than other mammals.
30. Daydreaming is a Real Phenomenon
If you find yourself drifting off to lala land in the middle of the day, you’re likely experiencing a daydream. According to Emlii.com, daydreams are simply nighttime dreams carried over into our waking hours. Interestingly, these daytime dreams are achieved through a completely different mental process.
Dreaming of a good night’s sleep? Read up on the 30 remarkable health benefits of sleep here.