Facts about dreams: what goes on when you nod off?

What goes on in our imaginations after the lights are out?

Dreaming woman flying over city with orange umbrella

Why we dream is one of life’s big mysteries, and while scientists still don’t have any solid answers as to why your imagination comes alive after the lights are out, they have discovered many other interesting facts about your dreams, and what goes on when you nod off.

Some theories about why we dream are that is helps us to:

  • consolidate learning from the day into long-term memory
  • reflect on the experiences of waking life
  • process complicated feelings and experiences
  • prepare for upcoming challenges and threats
  • prepare our brain to respond to biochemical changes and electrical impulses. 

Now here are some interesting facts about our dreams.

Morphing body parts

While dreaming, have you ever been unable to make out someone’s face? Most people’s brains struggle to recreate small details in dreams, so hands and faces often morph, blur or become absent.

Dreaming in black and white

Dream research has found that it is more common for older people to dream in black-and-white than younger people. One explanation put forward by scientists to explain this occurrence is that the older generation grew up watching black and white television,

Not-so-strange strangers

Remember that stranger you met in your dream last night? Well, he or she might not be a stranger at all. Some researchers believe that the random people your subconscious introduces you to in your dreams are actually people you’ve met before in your waking life, but who you just don’t remember.

Dreams become stranger before you wake up

As the night goes on, our dreams become weirder than the ones we have soon after falling asleep. This is because when you first fall asleep, your mind is busy sorting through the experiences you had during the day. Later, when all the work is done, your mind is free to play – this is when dreams can start to get really weird.

Controlling your dreams

Lucid dreaming is the act of training your brain to stay conscious while in a dream state. Lucid dreamers have the ability to control what happens during their dreams. The practice has been recommended by those who suffer chronic nightmares. There are a few techniques available to teach yourself how to lucid dream. One simple one is to do ‘reality checks’ while awake. Every few hours during the day, check the time on a clock. When you look away and then look back, the time will be the same. In dreams, the time will be different or blurred. With enough practice, your sleeping brain will become aware of the fact that the time has changed and that you’re dreaming.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    13th Apr 2016
    I think you may be an expert in dreams Amelia. Interesting article though.
    13th Apr 2016
    Last night I had a dream I was "romancing" Dr. Chris Brown (the Bondi Vet) I am old enough to be his Grandma, I was quite disturbed when I woke up, did not have anything out of the ordinary for Tea either!
    Poor Chris, he deserves better!!!
    13th Apr 2016
    After your comment about my humour, I think he does too.
    13th Apr 2016
    I am the world's dreamer of dreams...I literally fly round the world , converse with those that have passed on, sometimes get a glimpse into the future..and sort out my problems..
    I always dream in colour and have no need to go to the movies , I have my own theatre every night inside my head ,all I have to do ..is close my eyes and drift off, and I wake every day refreshed and well traveled..
    I consider myself a very lucky person...
    13th Apr 2016
    Mmmmm sounds like who wrote the above must be a dream psychic to be able to explain it to conscious people! After here well I suppose a dream is the closest thing we can relate to.
    13th Apr 2016
    Fast Eddie,

    You are a piece of work!
    13th Apr 2016
    A "master" piece, Fran.

    Tags: sleep, health, mind

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