If you’ve ever found yourself sitting there wondering what exactly dreams look like, you are not alone!
Dreams are an incredibly fascinating topic to explore, with many different theories in circulation regarding what they actually are.
Dreams take place when our bodies are in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) portion of sleep.
For centuries, philosophers and religious people have ascertained various meanings to dreams that can help guide us in the real world.
Those who have conducted research on dreams suggest that they are hallucinations that occur when the mind is relaxed.
Below, we take a look at what dreams actually look like, before going on to discuss some dream meanings.
Research Into The Visuals Of Dreams
So what exactly does a dream look like visually? Is it possible for us to gaze into the images produced by our brains? Sort of.
There has been some fascinating research conducted by German researchers, who actually discovered that the same portions of the brain which were active in our waking lives, were active in our dreams too.
These researchers took brain scans of a person who was dreaming, in order to explain how our brains create a narrative to connect different images.
The person who they conducted the research on was actually in a lucid state of consciousness, and had an awareness that he was dreaming.
He did not move at all during the experiment, except for his eyes which were twitching.
A total of six people were observed in this lucid state during the experiment, and they used FMRI to observe their brain activity.
The FMRI was able to keep track of the blood flow moving to the dreamer’s brains.
The flow of blood was then able to determine which areas of the brain were active.
The nature of the study was rather bizarre, with the participants having to lie on a flat surface, before being slid underneath a tunnel-like structure where they were told to make no movement.
Whilst they were in the dream, they were told to enter a lucid state.
The lucid state of consciousness allowed them to exercise control over their dreams.
The brain activity during the dream was then compared to the brain activity taken while they were awake.
This was repeated several times, and the researchers discovered that the same regions of the brain were active in both dreams and waking life.
What Do Men’s Dreams Look Like?
It is interesting to note that men dream mainly of travelling, sex, superpowers, and money.
The main colors associated with the dreams of men include red, green, blue, gray and brown.
It has been suggested that 37.9% of dreams experienced by men consist of traveling to remote locations, but these don’t just include tropical vacations.
Men often dream of traveling to different planets, or even into space itself. Studies suggest that these dreams elicit both negative and positive emotions.
The next most frequent dream experienced by men relates to the topic of sex.
Men tend to dream about sex far more often than women do, usually because of what they are consuming in the media, or biological tendencies.
Comparatively, men dream of sex 15% of the time, while women only dream of sex 8.5% of the time, showing a clearly gendered imbalance.
The next two dreams are fairly close in terms of percentage.
Apparently, men spend 8.7% dreaming of obtaining superpowers, much like the famed Marvel and DC superheroes observed in popular media, and then spend the remaining 8.4% dreaming about money.
What Do Women’s Dreams Look Like?
There are some similarities between the dreams of men and women, as the latter also tend to dream about travel and money.
However, women also frequently experience dreams of a romantic nature, as well as dreams about flying.
In addition women seem to dream in less colors than men, normally observing shades of blue and red.
Dreams of travel are again, highly common amongst women.
Women dream of traveling to various places and destinations around 39.1% of the time.
These dreams elicit a sense of freedom and excitement in the dreamer.
The second most popular kinds of dreams experienced by women involve romantic scenarios.
This is likely due to all of the media consumed by women regarding love and romantic relationships from an early age. 15% of women dream of falling in love in various romantic scenarios.
Studies explain that women often deem their success based on romantic relationships and finding the right partner, whereas men base their success on finances.
This explains the discrepancy between both different types of dreams.
The third most common dream experienced by women is that of flying, which took place 12.4% of the time.
Finally, only 6.2% of women dreamt about money.
What Do Men’s Nightmares Look Like?
In addition to observing the dreams experienced by men and women, it is also interesting to take a look at some of the different nightmares both genders have.
Men usually have nightmares about falling down, which occur around 19.4% of the time.
In these dreams they feel completely helpless and embarrassed.
The second most common nightmare experienced by men is that of being chased by somebody.
This nightmare occurs around 17.1% of the time. The objects chasing them in these dreams can either appear in a human-like form, or as animals, most commonly reptiles.
Finally, 13.7% of men said that they dreamt of being attacked by something or someone in their dream.
Whereas only 9.7% of women had dreams about this.
What Do Women’s Nightmares Look Like?
Women dreamt of being chased in their dreams far more frequently than men did, as they found themselves dreaming about this topic 19.6% of the time.
This is likely due to the fears that women experience in waking life of being followed.
The next most frequent dreams that women reported having were to do with appearance, specifically, their teeth falling out.
After this, only 9.7% of women reported that they experienced dreams of being attacked, as opposed to the 13.7% experienced by men.
Finally, 8.3% of women reported that they had dreams about their relationship ending with their partner.
What Do Lucid Dreams Look Like?
Lucid dreams occur when somebody has obtained mastery over their own dreams.
People who are able to perform lucid dreaming are able to control the nature and context of their dreams.
For example, if you want to observe yourself getting that dream promotion, or having your crush fall in love with you, lucid dreaming can make this happen.
Approximately 55% of people have had a lucid dream in their lifetime.
Studies have shown that most lucid dreams take place during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) portion of sleep.
It is shown that lucid dreaming can be linked to activity within the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
Lucid dreaming has been used widely in modern day as a tool for therapy, for those who are looking to overcome trauma.
Lucid dreaming can help patients to overcome fears and anxieties associated with nightmares, by exercising control over the situation.
Some researchers, however, believe that lucid dreams are not necessarily beneficial for mental health.
Some researchers claim that lucid dreaming can blur the lines between dreams and reality.
In addition, some say that lucid dreaming can decrease the quality of sleep, because they have elevated levels of brain activity.
The History Of Dream Interpretation
Dream interpretations can be dated back to 3000-4000 B.C, where the dreams of subjects were documented on clay tablets, demonstrating our fascination with the subject for centuries.
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, they believed that dreams were a way of receiving messages from the Gods and ancestors.
In addition to this, they also believed that dreams could act as prophecies, foretelling negative situations and events that might befall them.
The beliefs of these ancient people in the power of dreams even transcended to military decisions.
Dream interpreters would often help leaders to uncover their dream meanings to help with war strategies.
Aristotle believed that dreams could tell us more about the human body, and viewed them as purely physiological.
Dreams were able to diagnose different ailments, in addition to predicting the onset of disease, forewarning people during a period in which illness was rampant.
During the Hellenic period, dreams were viewed as tools for healing.
Temples, which were called Asclepieions, were set up to accommodate those who were suffering from a wealth of different ailments.
It was believed that by sleeping within these temples, they could be cured of whatever illness was plaguing them.
Interpreters also dwelled in these temples, and were there to help the dreamers to interpret their dreams in order to find a cure for their illness.
In Chinese culture, they believe that when we dream, our spirit is left to roam freely outside of our bodies.
When we wake, the soul re-enters into our bodies.
This is why even some Chinese people today are wary of alarm clocks, which could potentially jar the spirit back into the body unnaturally.
In the Middle Ages, for those who practiced Christianity, dreams were viewed with wholly negative connotations.
The dream state was viewed as an opportunity for the Devil to enter the mind and tempt his victims.
He could fill their mind with damaging and poisonous thoughts, as well as coercing them into fulfilling his evil deeds.
It was not until the 19th century, and the ground breaking work of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, that we gained the knowledge that we have about dreams today.
Freud, in his famous book The Interpretation of Dreams, shared his belief that dreams were manifestations of our greatest wants and desires.
Dreams could often present themselves as things we have been repressing in our conscious state, and were too afraid to acknowledge.
This was then used by Freud as a therapeutic tool to help those who were working through trauma.
Carl Jung built upon this theory presented by Freud, but diverted from some of his beliefs, instead claiming that dreams were ways for human beings to express their imagination.
He did not believe that they needed to be analyzed, and were simply a way of integrating our conscious and unconscious lives.
What Do Dreams Look Like Across Generations?
Studies have also been conducted to research how people from different generations dream.
It has actually been shown through studies that baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials all experienced variations in dreams.
Baby boomers were the ones who experienced dreams most actively, with 63.9% reporting that they had frequent dreams.
Gen Xers were the ones with the second level of dream frequency, at 57.2%. Finally, millennials came in last at 56.5%.
What Do The Dreams Of Baby Boomers Look Like?
Studies have shown that the dreams of baby boomers were dominated by exciting new places and themes of exploration.
This accounted for around 44.8% of the people who fell into this category.
Baby Boomers also tend to reminisce about their past a lot too within this context, and spend a lot of time reflecting on past memories.
These past memories are generally positive, and elicit feelings of love, happiness, and joy.
Flying is considered the second most popular kind of dream experienced by baby boomers, with 17.9% of them having these dreams regularly.
These dreams again had positive connotations, eliciting feelings of euphoria and peace.
7% of baby boomers then dreamt about love, while 6% dreamt about money, and only 4.5% dreamt about sex and food.
What Do The Dreams Of Gen Xers Look Like?
The majority of Gen Xers reported that the thing they dream about the most is going to new places, with 41% reporting this common theme.
It is interesting to note that participants who were the middle child in their family had dreams with darker themes, such as visiting graveyards and strange creatures.
The second most popular dream experienced by this generation was one of flying.
Yes, that’s right, this generation dreams of soaring to new heights, literally.
This one came in at 17.9%, with many describing the dream experience as one of complete bliss and joy.
Many who had the dream described it as being a very vivid one too, with intense colors of green, red, orange, amber, and blue.
Gen Xers also reported having the poorest quality of sleep from all three generations, with 16.9% of them reporting this fact.
This is compared to the 10.9% of Baby Boomers, and 14.6% of millennials.
A poorer quality of sleep can actually be linked to having more difficulty in remembering dreams.
What Do The Dreams Of Millennials Look Like?
Just like the first two on our list, millennials said that their dreams were also dominated by themes of exploring new places, coming in at 36.1 percent.
Unlike our other two, however, flying was not the second most common dream experienced by this generation.
Infact, dreams about sex were the second to dominate, with 14% of participants experiencing dreams related to this theme.
The people conducting the study believed that this was due to age.
The third most popular dream experienced by this generation is one of falling in love.
This dream theme comes in at 12.1%. Again, the theory of age can be applied to this.
Many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers will likely be more concerned about relationship building and sustainment, whereas Millennials are more focused on finding love.
What Do Baby Boomer’s Nightmares Look Like?
Baby Boomers have been shown to experience nightmares that frequently involve them being chased, coming in at 18.2%.
The people chasing them in these dreams are often made up of imaginary figures, such as zombies and monsters.
The feelings that they reported having during these dreams include fear and helplessness.
The second most common nightmare was falling, accounting for 16.2%.
Finally, feeling lost was the third most common nightmare at 14.1%. These nightmares often involved wandering around in desolate spaces.
What Do Gen Xers Nightmares Look Like?
Being chased was also the most common nightmare experienced by this generation at 15.1%, however, it was experienced at the lowest rate among all of the three generations surveyed.
After this, Gen Xers reported that their most frequent nightmare was falling, at 10.9%.
Finally, the third most common nightmare was being attacked, at 10.5%.
What Do Millennial’s Nightmares Look Like?
Again, the most common nightmare experienced by this generation involves being chased by someone or something, coming in at 19.9%.
The second most experienced nightmare by millennials was about death and dying, making up for 6.9%.
This might be because millennials often experience feelings of existential dread more frequently than other generations.
Thirdly, millennials reported that they often dreamt of being left or abandoned by a loved one in their nightmares, accounting for 6.4% of these dreams.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Is Most Likely To Experience Dreams While They Are Asleep?
Although everyone experiences dreams in their lives, some people are more prone to dreaming than others, and several different factors can contribute to this.
The times when you are most likely to dream is during the following:
- In childhood – Children, although they do not actually dream less or more than adults, can experience more vivid dreams. This is usually the result of instances such as night terrors, where they are more likely to be fearful of the things they dream about (Check out these Healing Crystals For Nightmares And Night Terrors).
- Whilst grieving – Studies have shown that dreams can be far more vivid and tangible when we experience losses. This is a part of the natural grieving process where your mind is trying to process the situation
- During Pregnancy – It has actually been shown that the changes in hormones and sleep found in pregnant women can affect their dreams. This means that women who are pregnant are more likely to experience dreams on a frequent basis, and the dreams that they have are far more vivid. Pregnancy might also give you the ability to remember your dreams better.
Do Blind People Have Dreams?
Yes – blind people dream much like the rest of us do.
Researchers have found that blind people are able to see visuals in their dreams, but demonstrate less rapid eye movement than people who can see.
It has been shown that blind people tend to experience more nightmares than those who can see.
Do Human Beings Dream In Color?
Human beings absolutely do dream in color. The majority of people, infact, see colors in their dreams.
The most common age group that reported seeing color in their dreams were those who were under the age of 25.
On the other hand, 12% of people said that they dream in balck and white, these consisted of older people.
Dreams are an incredibly fascinating topic, with so many different areas to explore.
With so many developments in the scientific field, we are able to find out more about how they function.
Dreams share similarities and differences along each generation, revealing more about human nature.
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