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15 Facts About Dreams That'll Make You Go "What The Actual Fuck"

Try screaming while having a nightmare. You can't.

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1. We dream every night. We just don't remember most of it.

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Most of us above the age of 10 dream every night, regardless of whether we remember it the next morning. And a majority of these dreams take place during a phase of sleep called REM (rapid eye movement).

2. You forget half your dream within five minutes of waking up. Within 10 minutes, you forget 90% of it.


Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA, speculated that the function of dreaming is to weed out unnecessary memory connections that the brain makes over time. Being able to recall most of your dream would defeat this very purpose.


4. And in an average lifetime, you'll spend about THREE YEARS OF IT DREAMING.

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With an average of 45–50 minutes per night, we can spend over 300 hours a year dreaming. If you were to live 72 years, that translates to roughly three years of dream time.

5. Men can have up to five erections every night while dreaming.

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We probably know nocturnal penile tumescence better as "morning wood." Luckily for dudes, having multiple nighttime erections is a sign that your body is working just fine.

7. You can totally be diagnosed with something known as "nightmare disorder."

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People with nightmare disorder report frequently waking up from deep sleep and being able to recall frightening nightmares in great detail. This can cause the patient significant distress in real-life situations.


8. But there's something even scarier — it's known as a "night terror."

During a night terror, a person may scream and thrash around and have an elevated heart rate — all while still being in a state of sleep. And they'll have no recollection of it afterwards.

Thankfully, night terrors are rare — they affect 3–6% of children, and the percentage reduces with age.

9. Some people can only dream in black and white.


About 12% of people dream entirely in black and white. This is reported less in people under 25, and more in those over 55 years of age. So it might actually have something to do with being exposed to a black-and-white television set in your childhood.

10. While some people claim to have the ability to smell while dreaming.

There has been very little research on this, but a 1998 study showed that about 1% of the subjects reported having the ability to smell something in their dream.

11. You can't scream for help while having a nightmare.

You might wake up screaming, but technically you can't actually scream during the nightmare itself.

Since most dreams (and nightmares) occur during REM sleep, your voluntary muscles are essentially paralyzed. So you might be screaming yourself hoarse in your dream, but your body will be motionless.


12. But a freaky nightmare might actually make you feel better.

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After a nightmare, you remember it as something that actually happened to you. Research has shown that it's much easier to deal with bad experiences than vague feelings of anxiety or paranoia.

This is why our brain converts these feelings into nightmares, making it feel like a memory instead, so you can get over it faster.

13. There are techniques you can use to get better at lucid dreaming.

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Lucid dreaming is the concept that you can realize that you're in a dream, and thus be able to control some or all of its elements.

There are many techniques that promise to achieve this, like the MILD technique, as well as devices for sale, like the NovaDreamer.

14. If you're "acting out" your dreams vividly, you might have REM sleep disorder.

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Unlike "night terrors," this is a condition notably observed in middle-age men. In REM sleep disorder, the paralysis that occurs during REM sleep is absent. This makes people literally act out what they're dreaming about, and can often lead to injuries.

15. If you're having recurring dreams, there may be some unresolved issues in your life.

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Dream theorists generally agree that a recurring dream is the manifestation of some unresolved issue. They usually begin in one's childhood, and can persist through one's lifetime.

Suppose you had exam stress as a kid, and it gave you a nightmare about exams. This nightmare might reappear many years later, if you're experiencing career stress.