26 Facts About Dreams That Will Keep You Up At Night

Published October 3, 2018
Updated October 22, 2018

If you were asked about your dreams last night, you might think you have the answers — but it's a lot harder than you think to be sure of the facts about dreams.

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26 Facts About Dreams That Will Keep You Up At Night
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Nobody has all the facts about dreams, but one thing is certain: all of us experience them. While some claim their sleep is always dreamless, scientists say otherwise. It turns out that we all have dreams — we just can’t all remember them.

Some view missing out on the previous night’s dreams as a great misfortune. For others, forgetting their dreams is freeing, especially if they are prone to nightmares.

Whichever camp you fall into, there’s no denying that the facts about dreams are fascinating. Though we can dream whenever we sleep, most of our dreams occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, which occurs around 90 minutes after we have fallen asleep.

During REM sleep, the long, slow brainwaves and gentle breathing of deep sleep give way to spiking brain activity and erratic heartbeats. Muscles are paralyzed — which is a good thing, because if they aren't, dreamers will physically and often violently enact what their sleeping brains experience.

So why do we dream? Unfortunately, scientists are just as baffled by this question as the rest of us.

There are, however, plenty of theories. Some experts claim that our dreams mean absolutely nothing — they are just random sequences of thoughts and images that our brains drag from our memory banks while we're unconscious. Our minds process and make narratives of them only once we're awake.

While dreams might not have spiritual significance, according to these theorists, they could offer an evolutionary advantage. Pointing to the fact that animals like cats and dogs also dream, they hypothesize that dreams might be a kind of threat simulation that lets our brains practice their responses.

Others claim that our dreams express our concealed desires and emotions. While this is more difficult to prove scientifically, facts about dreams suggest memory and emotion are key components.

A recent study found that the electrical brainwaves we experience when we dream are the same as those our brains generate when we retrieve memories. And those who shorten their nightly periods of REM sleep are likely to notice changes in their ability to perceive complex emotions in their waking lives.

Still others believe that our dreams can predict the future, either by letting us know exactly what is to come or by sending us images and symbols that need to be deciphered with the help of tools like dream dictionaries.

While we may not have all the facts about dreams yet, scientists agree that dreaming is important and that disturbed sleep — and disturbed dreams — may affect our health and well-being.

According to some studies, those who are suddenly jolted awake as they are about to enter REM sleep — the period in which we dream the most — have a higher risk of anxiety and depression. Indeed, new research suggests that poor REM sleep is a predictor of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

No links were found between dementia and any other sleep period, raising new questions about the importance of dreams in healthy brain function.


Next, why not have a look at more sleep facts. Then, read up on 5 terrifying sleep disorders. 

Laura Martisiute
Laura is a freelance writer based in Tramore, Ireland. In her spare time, she likes to explore secret beaches, pet cats, and read.
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