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What is Dreaming – Types of Sleep Phases, Theories, Nightmares

What is Dreaming

Dreams consist of images, ideas, and emotions that occur in the mind during REM sleep. Interpreting dreams to find meanings and searching for an underlying message. The study of dreams is called oneirology. Dreams can last a few seconds or up to 20-30 minutes. An average person has up to 3-5 dreams and in some cases, it may even be up to 7 dreams.

Dreams may vary from being frightening, magical, melancholic, adventurous, or sexual. Dreams represent unconscious desires and wishes. It also consolidates and processes information gathered during the day. Dreams prepare for possible future threats.

Dreams serve in helping cognitive abilities and reflecting unconscious mental function in a psychoanalytic way. The dreamer has reduced control over the dreams.

why we dream



There are five stages of sleep

STAGE 1 – This stage is known as light sleep and also forms 4- 5% of total sleep.

STAGE 2 –  Eye movement stops and brain waves become slower with sleep spindles. This forms up to 44-55% of total sleep.

STAGE 3 – Delta waves begin to appear with faster waves. This accounts for 4-6% of total sleep.

STAGE 4 – It is hard to wake someone up during stages 3 and 4 which together are called deep sleep. People awakened during this stage usually don’t adjust immediately and feel disoriented for several minutes after waking up. This forms 12-15% of total sleep.

STAGE 5–  It is also known as rapid eye movement ( REM). Heart rate increases, blood pressure rises and male develops penile erections. When people wake up from REM sleep they tell bizarre tales also known as dreams. It accounts for 20-25% of total sleep time.



1. Psychoanalytic theory – This theory believes that dreams represent unconscious desires and personal conflicts. Dreams act out as unconscious desires in the safety of an unreal setting.

2. Activation-synthesis theory – This theory believes that dreams are byproducts of your brain processing memories, emotions, and sensations.

3. Continual activations theory – This theory suggests that our dreams provide a place to hold our memories while they transfer from short-term memory to long-term memory.




This causes the dreamer to feel several disturbing emotions which causes fear and anxiety. They occur because of stress, fear, trauma, illness, and emotional difficulties.



The dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. They may have some control over their dream. It often occurs in the middle of a regular dream at random.



A study has shown that

1) 48% of characters represented a named person known to the dreamer.

2) 35% of characters were identified by their social role or relationship to the dreamer.

3) 16% were not recognized.



Two temporal effects characterize the incorporation of memories into dreams are:

1) The day-residue effect which involves immediate incorporation of events from the preceding day.

2) The dream-lag effect involves incorporation delayed by about a week.

It is been noticed that processing memories into dream incorporation take a cycle of around 7 days.



Dream lag happens when people you have recently seen tend to appear in your dreams.  It has been reported in dreams that dream lag occurs in the REM stage.



The two types of memory are:

1. Autobiographical memories or long-lasting memories about the self.

2. Memories about specific episodes or events.



The themes are linked to the suppression of unwanted thoughts and as a result an increased occurrence of suppressed thoughts. 55 typical dream themes have been identified which has been common for over different sample populations. Few of them are

  • School, teachers, studying
  • Being chases
  • Sexual experiences
  • Falling
  • Arriving too late
  • A living person dead.
  • A person coming back from death
  • Being physically attacked
  • Being killed
  • Eating delicious food
  • Insects and spiders
  • On the verge of falling
  • Being frozen with fright
  • Being tied up
  • Fire
  • Snakes
  • Finding money



1. Relationships – One cluster of typical dreams like being an object in fanger, falling, or being chases is related to interpersonal conflicts.

2. Sexual concepts – This cluster includes flying, sexual experiences, finding money, eating delicious food is associated with sexual motivations.

3. Fear of embarrassment –  These dreams are associated with social concerns and fear of embarrassment like failing an exam.



People who had considered attempted suicide or violence are more likely to have dreams with death involved.



It has been observed that after 5 minutes of a dream 50% of the content is forgotten.

Steps to help improve dream recall

1. Waking up naturally without any disturbance

2. Focus on the dream

3. Write down the dream as soon as you wake up



  • About 80% of participants younger than 30 years old dreamed in colour.
  • About 20% of participants at 60 years old dreamed of colour.
  • 12% of the population dream in black and white
  • People with vision loss have fewer visual dream impressions compared with sighted participants.
  • People with vision loss report auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory dream components.



  • Around 80% of the people with deafness reported that it did not indicate impairment. Many spoke in their dreams while they could hear and understand what others spoke.
  • People with paraplegia reported that in their dreams they could run, walk, and swim.
  • Longer dreams occur in the mornings
  • You are more likely to dream about sex if you sleep facedown.
  • Women dream of sex with multiple partners two times less than men.
  • Women have more nightmares than men
  • Sleeping right after eating makes it more likely for nightmares to occur as the metabolism increases which activates your brain.
  • Pets also have dreams
  • Negative dreams are more common than positive dreams.


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What do you think?

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Written by Brinda S

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Nidhi Dahiya

Amazing work

Riya Rajkotiya

Very informative
Well written

Kunjan Sheth

Very informative:)

Pulak Kaushik

Very Interesting!

Anish Dalapati

Great work

Lenin Thejashwini

Very informative and beautifully written. ✨

Lutfia Khan

wow, you’re killing it.

Simone Morarka

Such an interesting read!

Sushmitha Subramani

Very interesting and informative. Well done.

Harshita Vaswani

Hey that’s really informative
I’d like to point out that eye movement doesn’t stop in stage 2, it starts in rem stage.
And I’d like to add that sometimes these stages are irregular and overlap and takes place in a pattern and cycle repeated throughout sleep otherwise we would be able to calculate at what time the person is dreaming and at what time sleep spindles are being performed.


this is awesome !

Gurleen Kaur

I always associate dreams with something of deeper meaning . U just made my job easier

Nishitha S

that was a interesting topic to give a read on with pictures that makes more fascinating. REM being ‘rapid eye movement’ can be added to the article as most of us may not the full forms.

Hakim Khairunnisa

Your work covers all the aspects. You slowly reveal the facts in the proper order and in a balanced manner. You don’t mix up things . You unveil every part of your topic in series. I believe you can write about anything for the readers and it can all be comprehended very well.

Israela Pinto

Very interesting. I always wanted to know what’s the reason behind dreaming and why does it happen. I liked the way you added images too.

Srushti BM

Very interesting and very informative. Amazing !!

Janvhi Agrawal

It is one of the really good written articles that I read today, really appreciate you for writing this articles so beautifully. And make it so informative and compelling and appealing to read.

Aditi Dhoundiyal

A really informative article! Really interesting and intriguing. Also I really liked how each piece of information has been wonderfully compiled under specific sub headings. The facts mentioned in the end were really engaging too!

Sanskriti sharma

I hardly dream in my sleep. But when I do I get excited to know about them more. And while reading your article I was really trying to figure every single stray of my own dreams.


Amazing research! I really appreciate your knowledge and efforts. Enlightening article!
Keep going!

Yuvanue chauhan

Loved to read this beautiful written.

Sneh Antil

I’d say just WOW !

Jigyasa vashistha

This is such a lovely read

Aashima Kathpalia

I loved this article , Amazing facts !!


Great article! Thank you!

Apeksha Sharma

The article is very interesting and informative. I really like it. I feel a little bit of your personal ideas about it could have made it even more amazing and fun.

Janhavi Shrivastava

A very interesting read! Got to learn about many interesting terms related to dreams! Will be thinking about what I learned from this for a long time! Other than that what I felt is that you could focus more on each aspect rather than putting all in one article, this article would definitely benefit from some examples!

Cheers! 🙂

Thamina begum

Well written. Always dreaming is an interesting topic. Thanks for sharing this. Keep it up.