What Are Dreams? And Why Do People Have Them?

What Are Dreams? And Why Do People Have Them? 2
What Are Dreams? And Why Do People Have Them? 3
A sleeping girl floats on a bed in the sky and


The images, thoughts, voices, sounds, and stories that your mind creates while you are asleep are called dreams. They can be fun, exciting, frightening, disturbing, and can be bizarre. Dreams are experiences that make you wonder about the things that appeared. Dreams are a long-lasting mystery for scientists, unlike yawing and snoring.

Dreams mostly occur and best recollected during REM sleep, the deepest stage of the sleep cycle. REM sleep consists of about 25% of the entire adult sleep cycle. So, what are dreams? Are they good? Can you control them? In this article, you will get to know more about them.

Facts about dreams

Dreams are entertaining, fascinating, plain weird, or terrifying. Although there is no clear consent about its occurrence, researchers came to know about things that happen while you are dreaming. Here are some of the facts about dreaming.

Everyone dreams – Babies and adults dream for about 2 hours each night. People tend to dream several times throughout the night. Each dream is believed to last for 5 to 20 minutes.

Dreams are not remembered – Around 95% of the dreams are forgotten soon after waking. One theory shows that the changes experienced by the brain while sleeping don’t support the processing of information and storing them.

Dreams aren’t colorful always – Many of the people have a dream in color, but a small percentage of people dream in greyscale. Soft pastel colors are the chosen color when some people were asked to select the color that matches their dreams.

The most common are the negative emotions – Researchers have found out that most of the dreams consist of negative emotions. People tend to experience more about anxiety, fear, sadness, or anger in their dreams rather than the positive ones.

Blind people dream – If a person becomes blind after birth, he can see in dreams. But, those who have been born blind won’t be able to see in the dreams. However, they can experience dreams through sound, touch, smell and other senses.

You may experience paralysis – REM sleep is identified paralysis. It is known as REM atonia, which prevents you from reacting to your dreams while you are asleep. The motor nerves aren’t stimulated and hence you can’t move.

Men and women have different dreams – When a woman dreams, there are both men and women involved. But, when a man dreams, around 70% of the persons are other men. Men tend to have more aggressive dreams than women. Men tend to have smaller dreams.

What are dreams?

What Are Dreams? And Why Do People Have Them? 4
abstract futuristic art imagination of face in dreams

Dreams are nothing but images and stories that your mind tends to develop while you are asleep. Dreams can be colorful. They can make you feel excited, sad, happy, or scared. They can be perfectly rational or confusing too. Dreams can occur at any time while you are in deep sleep.

However, you tend to have the most colorful dreams during a stage called REM sleep. It is when your brain becomes more active. Many experts believe that everyone dreams for a minimum of 4 to 6 times a night. Dreams happen in abundance and remembered best during the phase of REM sleep. 

Lucid dreams are those kinds of dreams where you get to know that you are dreaming. This kind of dream comes with a flow of activity in the parts of your brain that are relaxed during sleep. It is that stage of mind between being awake and REM sleep.

There are some lucid dreamers who can influence their dreams. They can even change the stories. Now that may be a good tactic sometimes, especially when you are having a nightmare. However, dream experts have their own views on this. They believe that dreams should flow naturally.

When you are having a bad dream, it is called a nightmare. This is quite common in both adults and children. There are many reasons for having a nightmare. These include trauma, drug abuse, illness, stress, fear, conflict, and emotional problems. You may have a particular nightmare repeatedly.

Your subconscious is stipulating something, so listen to it. When you can’t figure it out, take the help of a mental health consultant. They will sort out the issue and give suitable tips so that you can have relief from it. Keep in mind that nightmares aren’t real, and they won’t hamper you.

What happens when you dream?

The chain of events begins with your brain stem, which gives way to the sleep mode. When you hit the REM sleep stage, your muscle movements are cut-off. Every part of your body is paralyzed except for the eyes. This is a good thing, or else you should have reacted.

Meanwhile, the nerve cells in your brain’s stem tend to fire up irregularly. Many researchers believe that dream happens when a reasonable part of your brain tries to interpret these signals. Some parts of the frontal cortex become offline. There will be an absence of reasoning, logic, and judgment. 

And, that’s why the normal rules of time and space won’t apply. Hence, in one moment you are getting tensed because of an examination, and the next moment you are flying. The dreams tend to influence the hippocampus present in your brain. It is the cradle of memories, and the amygdala plays an important part in emotion.

This is the reason why they can include actual events that can make you feel happy or frightened. Although there is nothing for your eyes to look, the visual cortex that interprets the images becomes live. That’s why you can see all the action and events right in your head. 

Most parts of your dreams occur during the REM sleep stage. However, you can have non-REM sleep dreams, but they are different. Despite spending about 2 hours in REM sleep per night, most people don’t recollect their dreams. The exact reasons are still unknown, but maybe it’s a coping mechanism. 

You may have a hard time to differentiate between dreamed and actual events if you remember everything from the dreams. The least active parts in your brain are the frontal lobes. This explains the fact why you remain uncritical during dreams and accepting crazy actions as if they are real until you wake up.

Do your dreams really mean anything?

Everybody seems to recollect their dreams often when they wake up the following morning. But, it is important to find out if there is any significance in those dreams. There are plenty of theories when the discussion is about finding the meaning of dreams. Each theory has its own set of views.

One such theory is the called Activation-Synthesis Hypothesis. It was proposed by Robert McCarley and Allan Hobson of Harvard University. The theory says dreams don’t mean anything. They are brain impulses that gather random imagery and thoughts from the memories. The theory puts stress on the point that humans develop stories after waking up to make sense of the dream.

Sigmund Freud, a renowned psychologist, believes that dreams bring out suppressed wishes or conflicts. According to him, dreams are images of repressed impulses from childhood. That’s why he studied dreams to know more about the unconscious mind. 

There is another theory called a Threat Simulation Theory. It describes dreams as a means of defense mechanism that your brain puts so that you can prepare for scary events. That will aloe you to face the fears in a safe simulation. 

The theory also states that children whose psychological and physical well-being are in constant threat, develop a dream production and a threat simulation system. Based on this theory it can be assumed that people tend to dream more during the state of anxiety or fear.

Hence, it is seen that there are many theories about dreaming, and it is difficult to pinpoint a single theory. In recent times it is seen that more and more people are opening themselves to the fact that dreams are random misfiring of the brain.

Dreams do tell you something about yourself, but these may not be perfect links. For instance, if you dream about losing your bag, that doesn’t mean you will lose it in a few days. It may indicate that something you like is missing.

Is dreaming good or bad?

While dreams may appear non-sensible, they are more useful than you think. Here are some reasons that justify dreaming is good for you.

Dreams will make you sense your daily experience – Many researchers believe that dreams are the theatrical representations of real-life circumstances. It helps the person to digest whatever is going on in their lives. Dreams can serve as a useful tool in various studies relating to psychotherapy. Dreams provide a platform for discussing critical issues that someone may find it difficult to talk.

Dreams help you to remember things – Plenty of research puts emphasis on the fact that sleep helps you to absorb newly formed information. There is sufficient evidence that suggests dreaming can strengthen memories. Several tests were conducted on humans that prove people can remember different things when they sleep. And, those who dream, are even considered better.

Dreams are sleep guardians – According to a study by Sigmund Freud, a poplar psychologist, dreams can avert sleep disruption. Other researchers tested the hypothesis by collating the recurrence of sleep problems in brain-damaged people suffering from anoneira and similar people who have the ability to dream. The results feel in line with Freud’s hypothesis.

Dreams give you the ability to face threats – Many studies have shown that dreams give you the ability to encounter real-life threats. You know that the majority part of your dreams is negative. However, negative emotions can prepare you to cope up with it in a systematic way. Dreams prepare you for coping up with threatening situations in reality.

Dreams put you in a great mood – Dreams helps to regulate your mood. Good sleep and a dream can impact your mood to a great extent. Various researches have shown that dreaming actively aids in moderating mood overnight.

Can we control our dreams?

According to recent research and findings, when you use mental and realistic techniques, you can influence your dreams. You can even use the dreams to get the related information from the point of source of your unconsciousness mind. While this might appear like a fairy tale, but it can be done. 

A professor of psychology, Deirdre Barrett, very much believes that all humans have the ability to control their dreams. She insists that it is practicable to effect dreams with a special technique known as dream incubator. It is a practiced method of learning to implant an idea in the mind. 

Dream incubator will make a specific dream happen either to solve a problem or recreation. To try this technique, dream about a specific thing by focusing on it while you are in bed. As dreams are visual, you can hold an image that relates to the subject. You can put any item besides your bed that portrays your dream. 

When you are using your dream, refrain from jumping out of the bed soon after waking. By doing so, you will lose half of your dream content. Don’t worry, if you can’t remember the dream instantly. Lie quietly and notice if something comes in your mind. 

The idea of the second jump is to make the information accessible through your unconsciousness mind. Most people believe that the human mind is capable of solving problems only by thinking. But the conscious mind is very weak. Excess thinking leads to anxiety, depression, and stress. Hence, it is better to let the unconsciousness mind do the work.

Barrett asked her students to use the dream incubator to solve problems. About one-half of them have dreamt and one-quarter of the students were able to solve the problem. Hence, whenever you are stuck on a problem, it is the linear reasoning that has been stuck. Dreams are considered an extremely valuable resource. 

How long do dreams last?

It is not easy to determine how long dreams may last. However, experts can provide you with some sort of estimated time to know for how long you may dream. According to research by the National Sleep Foundation, it has been found out that an average person dreams about 4 to 6 times per night.

It has been stipulated that you may spend about 2 hours dreaming over the course of a night, as reported by the National Institutes of Health. The majority of the dreams occur during the REM sleep. It is one of the two categories of sleep that the body experiences. The other one being non-REM sleep.

Although you can dream in the non-REM sleep, the dreams are more vivid during the REM sleep. It stays for about one and a half hours to two hours. If you sleep for an average of 8 hours per night, you tend to spend about one-quarter of the time in REM sleep.

So far as nightmares are concerned, they tend to happen in the last part of the REM sleep cycles, which is the final third of the night. It has been found out in various research that 50% to 85% of adults experience a nightmare. But there isn’t any answer to how it can last. 

People may have nightmares occasionally, but there are some people who experience them regularly. Nightmare disorders are very rare, and they constitute about 4% of adults. Some researchers have shown that 71% of people who went through traumatic situations in life are prone to regular nightmares.

Do animals dream?

Because you can’t notice an animal’s or dogs’s dream directly, there is no way you can tell if they dream or not. But, in the 1950s, several researchers have found something that very much supports the fact that few mammals and birds tend to dream. Although these are indirect evidence, yet convincing.

Part of the evidence consists of what you know as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that was discovered way back in 1953. It is that stage in humans that corresponds with a dreaming state. During the REM sleep, you can’t move, the eyes move back and forth, and there is plenty of electrical activity running on your brain.

After identifying this in humans, the scientists began their research on animals. Almost every birds and mammal from cats to dogs to reptiles seem to have this stage of REM sleep. A similar kind of electrical activity like that of humans is found in the animal’s brain during the REM sleep cycle. Hence, if the electrical patterns confirm that human is dreaming, then there is every possibility that animals are dreaming as well.

Some studies have shown that cats who were made to move while in the stage of REM sleep, hit their paws and bit at imagery things. Hence, if the evidence is right and it proves that cats do dream, you can have an idea about what they might be dreaming of. So, it can be assumed that animals may dream depending on the available research.


Dreams are all about everything that is all around you. They can be realistic, magical, strange, or horrifying. You could have both known and unknown persons, and pets from your daily life in your dreams. The dreams may occur in a familiar place or might be a faraway location. 

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