Dreams have fascinated and mystified scientists for years and considerable research has been undertaken to find out how they happen and what they mean. Despite this, there’s still a lot that remains unknown or is subject to debate.
Every person in the world dreams but the subject and content of those dreams varies significantly from person to person.
In this article, we explore more about what dreams are and why they happen as well as ten fun facts about them.
What is a dream?
So everyone has them, but what exactly are they? Dreams occur when you’re asleep and they consist of images, thoughts and feelings. Visual dreams are the most common but dreams can involve the other senses too. This means you may be able to hear, smell and taste in your dream. 
When a blind person dreams, the visual content of the dream is reduced. This is then replaced with the other senses which are all heightened. A blind person may experience more sound, touch, taste and smell then sighted people do while they’re dreaming. 
Some people dream in vivid colour, while others see only black and white. 
Dreams can be funny, happy, frightening, sad or a combination of all of these things. When you dream, you often don’t have any control over the content, unless it’s what’s known as a lucid dream. 
Why do we dream?
The short answer is that researchers don’t really know why we dream. Some think that dreams are a way of confronting issues that you have going on in your life through your subconscious thoughts and feelings. 
Another theory is that dreams help to get our creative juices flowing. How many times have you woken up after a dream with a great idea for a novel or with the start of a new tune in your head? Thoughts and ideas have no restrictions while you sleep, so they’re free to go anywhere they want – an artist’s dream, quite literally! 
Dreams can help you to store important memories and things you’ve learned whilst getting rid of things that are not as important. Research has shown that while you sleep, memories are stored and sleeping after learning new information helps you to remember it better than if you haven’t slept. 
Do you dream every night?
Yes, every single person dreams every night when they sleep. However, you might not remember them once you wake up. You usually dream between three and six times each night. 
The dreams that you can remember mostly occur during the REM stage of sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and during this stage of the sleep cycle, your eyes move rapidly around in a range of different directions. However, they don’t send any visual information to your brain as they would if you were awake. 
REM happens around an hour and a half after you have fallen asleep and only lasts for about 10 minutes.  Dreams can occur at different sleep stages, however, they are often not as memorable if they do. 
The meaning of dreams
What are your dreams telling you? The meaning of dreams is one subject which scientists can’t agree on, although it is widely acknowledged that dreams seem to be a way of processing some of the thoughts and feelings that you have during your waking life. 
For more about the meaning of dreams, check out these eight common dreams and what they mean.
How do dreams affect sleep?
Mostly, dreams don’t affect the quality of your sleep. Dreaming is completely normal and is just part of a normal night’s sleep. 
While good dreams don’t tend to negatively impact your sleep, nightmares or scary dreams can. They can make it difficult to fall asleep or get back to sleep afterwards if you’re feeling frightened or disturbed. If you often get nightmares, it can lead to sleep deprivation. 
Having a poor-quality night’s sleep can make you feel drowsier and less alert during the day. 
If you need more help with getting a good night’s sleep, then these tips for sleeping well may help.
If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough sleep and your physical or mental health is suffering then you should seek advice from your doctor.
Lucid dreams are dreams in which you are asleep but you know that you are dreaming. During these dreams, you can control some of what happens, including making decisions and managing your actions and those of others in the dream.
The measure of control that you have in the dream can vary from person to person and from dream to dream. Just like other dreams, lucid dreams happen most often during the REM sleep stage and they often occur within another dream, when the sleeper realises that they’re dreaming. 
Nightmares are the ugly cousin of dreams. They are distressing and disturbing and the dreamer may feel emotions such as anxiety and fear. Both adults and children can experience nightmares. 
Some common nightmares include being chased by someone or something, falling and your partner leaving or cheating on you. 
Fun facts about dreams
Now let’s get into the fun stuff! Here are 10 fun facts about dreams which you might not know:
1.What’s in a name
The origin of the word dream is from the Middle English word ‘drēam’ which meant ‘joy’, ‘noise’ or ‘music’ and referred to activities causing sensations while awake. In the 13 th century, it started to be used in a more sleep-related sense. 
2.Dreaming our lives away
It’s estimated that we spend around one third of our lifetime sleeping and around six years of that time dreaming.  And that doesn’t count daydreaming!
3.Dream in colour
Not all of our dreams are in colour, some of them appear in black and white only. Roughly 12% of people claim that they dream only in black and white.  It’s also thought that when we do dream in colour, our dreams appear in softer, pastel shades. 
4.Forget about it
Although most people dream for over an hour each night, most forget more than 95% of their dreams.  This is mainly down to the low level of awareness that we have during sleep. Within five minutes of waking up, more than half of the dream is forgotten and by the time it gets to 10 minutes, 90% of the dream is gone. 
5.Knowing me knowing you
We only see real faces in our dreams, our brains can’t invent new faces. If you think that someone is appearing in your dream who you don’t know then it may be one of the hundreds of thousands of faces you’ve seen during your life but you may not remember. 
6.Negative dreams are more common
Dreams often feature really intense emotions and the most common of these is anxiety. Negative emotions are also more common when it comes to dreams than positive ones.  Some of the most common dreams include anxiety-inducing themes like being chased or your teeth falling out. 
7.Real things can happen in dreams
External stimuli can easily be incorporated into a dream. So, for example, if the doorbell rings while you’re dreaming, the sound can also be heard within the dream.  It’s up to you if you answer the door or not!
8.You can snore and dream at the same time
A common myth is that you can’t snore and dream at the same time. It’s thought this because during non-REM sleep our bodies are completely relaxed and this also relaxes the muscles in the airways which can cause the vibrations that are known as snoring.
During REM, these muscles are tense and so you’re not as likely to snore during this time, when you’re dreaming. However, people who snore often report that their snoring woke them up from a dream and some people snore throughout the night, including during the REM phase. 
9.Dreams are different depending on gender
Men and women tend to dream differently. Studies have shown that men tend to dream about men more and that their dreams contain more themes of physical aggression and sexuality than women’s dreams. 
Women tend to dream about an equal proportion of men and women and their dreams have more themes of depression than men’s. 
10.Dreams in ancient times
People have been fascinated by dreams for thousands of years. The first dreams were recorded by the Babylonians on stone tablets in around 3100 BC.  The Ancient Egyptians were said to have created dream dictionaries to try to interpret their dreams.