During sleep, the brain weaves a complex tapestry of images, emotions, and narratives that often bend the rules of logic and reality. And the fact these dreams unfold in the puzzling realm of the mind is what makes them so mysterious.

Scientists and dreamers alike are often baffled by the nature of dreams – and to this day, they still can’t fully be explained. However, it’s widely believed that they draw on personal experiences, emotions, and unconscious fears and desires. 

With that said, we’ve taken a closer look at the world of dreams to pull together a list of 10 fascinating facts. From not being able to read in our dreams to spiders dreaming too – we hope you enjoy them!

1. The most common UK dream is about teeth falling out

The most common UK dream is about teeth falling out

Earlier this year, MattressDay UK published the findings of their research on how the UK and US dream. After reviewing 279,750 internet searches, it was revealed that in both the UK and US dreams of teeth falling out looked to be the most common – with 109,560 related searches found.

Evidence of dreams about teeth falling out date back as far as 200 AD and, and while there are many interpretations, they’re commonly linked to loss, anxiety and stress, fears around ageing, or a loss of control. 

To read more about the possible reasons for your teeth falling out in your dream, check out this article from Dreams.

2. Dreams occur during REM sleep

Dreams are most vivid and memorable during REM sleep. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is a stage of sleep that involves quick and random movement of the eyes, high brain activity, and detailed dreaming. It makes up about 20-25% of the sleep cycle and typically occurs multiple times throughout the night. 

During REM sleep, the brain is highly active, resembling wakefulness, but the body’s voluntary muscles become temporarily paralysed, preventing physical movement. This is to keep us safe and prevent us from acting out our dreams.

The REM stage of sleep is considered essential for various functions, including memory consolidation, and emotional processing.

3. Dreaming has been linked to the consolidation of memory

While it might seem like dreams are a random assortment of images that flash through our minds for no reason, scientists believe there may be more to it. 

According to research, dreams allow our brains to sort, prioritise, and declutter memories while we sleep. During this process, it’s believed that our brains integrate new memories – in the form of dream fragments – into existing memory networks. These networks act as a framework for new information to be interpreted and understood, and become stronger as a result.

Sigmund Freud famously referred to the memories or experiences the brain sorts through while we sleep as ‘day residues’. They might be realistic representations of things we’ve experienced during the day that our brain is trying to remember, or they could be experiences that our brains have turned into dreams to help us make sense of them.

4. 30% of the UK population have experienced sleep paralysis at least once

According to research by Altitude Film Distribution, 30% of the UK population have experienced sleep paralysis at least once – yet many (38%) don’t understand it and attribute it to having a stroke, dying, being abducted by aliens, or being possessed by ghosts. So what exactly is sleep paralysis? 

During sleep paralysis, you might feel as though you’re part asleep and part awake. You might feel that you can’t open your eyes, speak, or move – and this will often last several minutes. Some also say that they feel like something is in their room and/or pushing them down. 

While sleep paralysis can be frightening, it’s actually harmless and most people will only experience it once or twice in their lives. Sleep paralysis occurs due to a temporary disruption in the transition between sleep stages, particularly during the REM sleep stage. This is because the brain protects us from acting out our dreams by paralysing our muscles. Though sometimes this extends briefly into wakefulness, leading to a sensation of being unable to move or speak.

Factors like irregular sleep patterns, sleep deprivation, and stress can contribute to sleep paralysis by influencing these transitions. The NHS website has information on what you can do to prevent sleep paralysis, such as not smoking or drinking alcohol before bed, and having regular sleep and waking times.

5. Some people dream in black and white while others dream in colour

Some people dream in black and white while others dream in colour

The phenomenon of dreaming in black and white versus colour isn’t fully understood, but it’s believed that our interaction with the media may have a strong influence. 

For example, some research suggests that people who grew up with black-and-white television during the mid-20th century might be more likely to dream in monochrome, reflecting their exposure to a predominantly black-and-white visual environment. 

This might explain why dream research has evolved the way that it has, alongside developments in TV. For instance, in 1915, one US study concluded that only 20% of dreams contained colour; while, in 1942, another study found that 29% of college students only had occasional coloured dreams. But, by 1960 (when colour TV was more popular in the US), colour was found to be present in 83% of dreams.

6. Most people find it challenging or impossible to read in their dreams

Health experts generally agree that reading in dreams is like trying to catch a slippery fish. When we’re dreaming, our brain is in this creative, wild mode – but, the part of it that helps us read and make sense of words isn’t fully on board. So, it’s as if our brains are taking a power nap while we’re dreaming up all sorts of adventures. 

This means that when we look at a book or a sign in a dream, the words might dance around or change, making it impossible to read them properly. It’s not because we’ve forgotten how to read – it’s just that our dream brain is all about visuals and emotions, rather than sticking to the rules of language.

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7. People who are blind from birth can still experience vivid dreams

Even if someone is blind, they can still experience vivid dreams. Dreams are not solely dependent on visual input but are a complex mix of sensory and emotional experiences. So, for those who are blind, dreams often incorporate their other senses, such as sound, touch, taste, and smell, as well as emotional content and memories. 

In fact, studies have shown that the dreams of blind individuals can be just as rich and detailed as those of sighted individuals – there may just be fewer images. This highlights the brain’s remarkable ability to construct intricate dreamscapes based on a person’s unique sensory and emotional experiences, regardless of what they can see.

8. We can learn to control our dreams

Believe it or not, it’s possible to control our dreams through a practice known as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming involves becoming aware that you are dreaming while still in the dream state, allowing you to actively participate and even influence the dream narrative. 

Research suggests that around half of all people have had a lucid dream at some time in their lives, with roughly 11% experiencing one or two lucid dreams per month.

There are various techniques used to stimulate lucid dreaming. For example, some start by keeping a dream journal to improve dream recall and perform reality checks throughout the day – like looking at their hands and asking themselves whether they’re dreaming – to foster awareness habits that may carry into dreams. 

Check out this article from Medical News Today for more on learning how to control your dreams.

9. Dreams may play an important role in emotional regulation

Dreams may play an important role in emotional regulation

It’s widely believed that dreams play an important role in emotional regulation by providing a platform for processing and consolidating emotional experiences. 

During REM sleep, the brain is highly active, particularly in areas associated with emotions and memory. And dreams may act as a kind of ‘overnight therapy’, allowing individuals to revisit and make sense of emotionally charged events. This process may help with integrating and understanding complex feelings, potentially reducing the emotional intensity of certain experiences. 

Essentially, dreams may serve as a form of emotional rehearsal, enabling the brain to practice responding to various scenarios and emotions in a safe environment. This emotional processing function of dreams may contribute to mental wellbeing and resilience, helping us to adapt and cope with the challenges of waking life.

10. Recent research suggests that spiders may dream

Recent research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has revealed that, like humans, jumping spiders experience a sleep-like state with rapid eye movements.

The 2022 study examined sleeping baby jumping spiders – who have transparent heads because they’re yet to develop pigment on their exoskeleton – with a magnifying glass and a night vision camera. It focused on their eyes and body movements and found that they experienced periods of rapid retinal movement, their abdomens wiggled, and their legs curled and uncurled.

While this doesn’t mean that spiders dream, the study concluded that it’s suggestive that they do. And study leader Daniela Rößler, told National Geographic, “If they dream, I mean, what can you do? You cannot smush a spider that dreams.

Final thoughts…

The realm of dreams is fascinating and intricate, offering insights into the complexities of the human mind. However, more research is needed to understand it fully.

Though, as we navigate the puzzling world of dreams, embracing their surprises and unravelling their secrets, one thing is certain – dreams, with their vivid landscapes and unexpected narratives, continue to be a source of wonder, contemplation, and endless fascination. 

Sweet dreams and happy exploring!

For further reading, you might want to check out the sleep and fatigue section of our website. Here, you’ll find tips on everything from creating the perfect environment for sleep to sleeping better with arthritis.

What do you dream about? Do you dream in black and white or colour? We’d be interested to hear about your experiences in the comments below.