Why We Dream
About the Authors
Does everybody dream?
Although many people do not recall their dreams in the morning, REM-sleep evidence suggests that people who do not recall their dreams do just as much dreaming as people who can recall their dreams.  If you take people who have sworn that they never dreamed in their life, put them in a dream research laboratory and wake them from REM sleep, you will get dream recall at rates comparable to other people.  If someone says "I never dream," what they mean is that "I can't recall my dreams."  These are the people who only wake during NREM sleep and about half our population does so.  It has been suggested by some psychologist that these people unconsciously wake themselves at a time when they are not dreaming, because they want to repress the fact that they dream.
When do dreams occur?
Most dreams occur during REM sleep.  People who are awoken during REM sleep almost always can remember what they were dreaming, whereas those woken during NREM sleep have around a 15% of remembering their dreams.  Also, the type of dreams reported by people awoken from REM sleep are often illogical, bizarre, and the type we often associate as a dream.  On the other hand, people dreaming in the NREM state often have dreams that are more like normal thinking, not nearly as emotionally or visually charged as the other dreams during REM sleep.  So actually we can dream at any given time during the night, but the only dreams that we remember, on average, are the ones during REM sleep.
How long do dreams last?
Dreams can vary in length depending on how long we have slept.  When we first go to sleep it takes us about an hour to have our first dream, which lasts about 15 minutes on the average.  From then on we have a dream about every hour with the time shortening the more sleep we have.  By the end of the night, some of our dreams can last nearly 45 minutes or more.
Do dreams occur in color?
Virtually all dreams are in color.  For a long time it was thought that only a fraction of the population dreamed in color, and these people were said by many to represent the more creative of our population, but this is not true.  Most dreams contain color, but take place in a dim half-light such as we normally experience under moonlight.
Do people know when they are dreaming?
Sometimes yes. People can teach themselves to recognize that they are dreaming, and their awareness does not interfere with the dream's spontaneous flow.  This is known as lucid dreaming, and is a skill which can be learned.
Can people control the content of their dreams?
Some control of dream content is possible by making suggestions to subjects in the pre-sleep period and then analyzing the content of the dreams that followed.  Most times it is very difficult to control the content of your dreams unless you are lucid dreaming, in which you are able to control the course of the dream, but the degree of control will vary from dream to dream and from dreamer to dreamer.
Why does it take me so long to get to sleep?
People often underestimate the time they spend asleep.  They may believe that it has taken them an hour or two to get to sleep, when they have really only lain awake for fifteen to twenty minutes.  Others who do actually lay awake tend to have to solve today's problems and plan what they will be doing tomorrow before they go off to sleep.  If you think it takes your body too long to fall asleep it might be worth receiving advice from a physician.
Can dreams be interpreted?
The common theory today is that dreams can be interpreted, and can give us valuable insight into our lives.  However, don't run out and buy Madame Woozel's Dreaming Dictionary or a book that similar.  These books claim that dream symbols mean the same thing for everyone.  Dreams are very personal things, and the interpretation should be done by the dreamer, not some person who should be working down at your local Chinese restaurant making up fortune cookie sayings.
Do dreams ever come true?
It is generally accepted that dreams do not predict the future.  However, there are cases when people say that they dreamt about something that later happened in waking reality.  Most times this is because someone constantly thinks of an event that is coming up in their life.  During the night they dream or what could possibly happen to them during the important time coming up in their life.  This commonly is your body thinking to itself, "I am not prepared mentally for this upcoming event."  This is why we dream about it and then it happens, although it is rare that someone would experience an exact replication of their dream.
Is sleepwalking/talking related to dreaming?
Even though it has been found that sleepwalking, sleeptalking, and enuresis take place in NREM sleep.  Since it has been found that our body experiences sleep paralysis during the REM stages of sleep.  However, there may be links between them and dreaming, because dreams can happen in NREM sleep.  The reason for sleepwalking and sleeptalking could be the firing of motor and speech mechanisms in the brain, but no conclusive evidence has actually been found.