How Many Dreams Do You Have a Night?

how many dreams do you have a nightA lot of things happen while we are asleep. Our bodies physically recover from the previous day, and our minds process all the information they have gathered as well. During certain stages of sleep we are more likely to have dreams, but how many dreams do you have a night?

The answer is down to individual differences, and whether you are getting a good sleep or not. In this article we will be looking at the suggested causes of dreams, and how much of the sleep cycle is spent experiencing them.

What is a Dream?

Dreams can occur during any stage of sleep, but the most intense ones happen during REM sleep when your brain is the most active. There isn’t actually an agreed upon definition of precisely what a dream is, but they are generally described as the experience of images, sounds, and sensation while in a sleep state.

From looking at brain scans of sleeping people, it is clear that dreams have a physical presence, with neural activity noticeably increasing in areas of the neocortex. Active neurons in both the visual and auditory parts of the brain explain why we see and hear things during sleep that aren’t actually there, and it’s not too much of a leap of understanding to realize that the brain will link these sensations together to form a story or memorable dream.

Why Do We Dream?

It’s not fully understood why we dream. Many psychologists, such as Freud, have suggested that they are a direct window into the mind; with themes and actions relating to current fears, worries, or excitement the person is going through in life. Quite often elements of a dream will be relevant to how someone is feeling, and many researchers believe they happen as a result of the mind organizing all the information it has gathered since the last sleep.

If you think of your brain as a computer, it needs to file data in places that will be easy to find in the future. The act of reading this data as it is being processed is what provides imagery for your dreams.

Do We Dream Every Night?

Quite simply, yes we do. You may not necessarily remember the contents of any of your dreams, as only the most vivid ones tend to stay with us, but they constantly happen while we sleep. We know this from experiments where sleeping people have their brains scanned, and the activity we spoke about earlier in the neo cortex is present every night.

What Would Happen if We Didn’t Dream?

While we don’t fully understand the reasons for dreams, there is some evidence to show that the inability to dream can cause problems. Participants who agreed to have their dreams interrupted every time one started have been shown to suffer higher levels of anxiety and tension, hallucinations, concentration problems, depressive thoughts, and even weight increases.

Whether we remember them or not, it is clear that dreams serve a therapeutic purpose and are, in fact, crucial to our mental well-being.

How Many Dreams Do We Have?

Based on brain monitoring it is thought that the average person over the age of 10 has about 5 or 6 dreams every night. These can be very quick, or longer lasting, and by no means will you be certain to remember them once you wake up. Of course there is a variation in the number you will have yourself, and this can be influenced by a few factors such as drink and drug use, your levels of anxiety, if you generally get enough sleep, and how uninterrupted your sleep is.

How Many Dreams Do We Remember?

Our memory of dreams is also affected by a number of factors, often to do with the type of dreams we are having in the first place. Quite often they will simply be memory fragments or disjointed imagery the brain is working through, in which case it’s unlikely you’ll remember it.

The intense narratively cohesive dreams, though, are the ones you’re more likely to remember, particularly if they cause you to wake up soon after. From every one hundred dreams, it is estimated that we are only likely to be aware of around five of them.

The Takeaway

Dreaming is a vital process that happens during sleep to ensure our mental well-being. You’ll have experienced all sorts of different things in your dreams with some information coming from real world data your brain is trying to process and the rest coming from your imagination.

How many dreams do you have a night? It’s surprising to realise how many you actually have, especially as most of them are forgotten, but it’s a good thing because life would soon become difficult if you didn’t have them.