Ah, the science of sleep. You can make a strong argument that any fact about dreaming is, by definition, weird and wonderful. One of the oddest occurrences of day-to-day life, dreams are particularly tricky to study, given that, in order to ask someone about their dream, you have to wake them up.
Here are a few fun facts about the stories we tell ourselves while we sleep…
Men and Women Dream Differently
Never mind how the other half lives, studies suggest there are significant differences in how the other half sleeps. Women seem to be far better at remembering their dreams, but, unfortunately, experience nightmares more frequently and at a higher intensity. Male dreams tend to be slightly more mundane, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, more easily forgotten.
People Can Control Their Dreams A Bit
A lucid dream is a dream in which the sleeper is aware that they are dreaming, and sometimes said sleeper can consciously insert things into their dreams. A 2017 study dug a little deeper, and suggested that a series of real-world techniques could help people control their subsequent slumber.
The research said that three simple strategies – waking up for a set period in the night, imagining yourself within a lucid dream, and taking note of your environment during the day – saw 17% of people experience a lucid dream over the course of one week.
About 12% of People Dream in Black and White
Although almost everyone sees in color (a tiny minority are completely color blind), a small but significant portion of the world’s sleepers dream in old-fashioned monochrome. No one knows why for sure, but one study linked the phenomenon to older people growing up with black-and-white televisions and media.
The most common dream-related questions tend to follow the format “does ‘x’ dream?” and the answer is almost always yes. Human fetuses could start dreaming in the womb (even before exhibiting REM sleep), while any dog owner that’s seen their pet air-sprinting while snoozing can tell you Fluffy definitely dreams too.
Blind people still dream visually after losing their sight (though research suggest this fades over time), while those born blind have similarly vivid dreams with other senses like hearing and smell.
We Still Don't Know Why We Dream
A holy grail for researchers, along with the equally baffling ‘why do we yawn?’, the question of how and why we dream has eluded scientists for centuries. The many, many theories claim variously that dreams consolidate memories in the brain, act as proxies for difficult real-life problems, train the mind to respond to danger, or act as an aid to waking creativity.
One, none, or all of these suggestions may be true to differing degrees. The jury is still out.