Although there is not one answer to this question, we dream for reasons that are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Over time, dreams can help us know ourselves better, and they present opportunities for creativity, growth, health, and wholeness. There are many different kinds of dreams ranging from ordinary to extraordinary, and some kinds of dreams are sometimes associated with different cycles of sleep.
Dreams can help us solve problems, they can give us creative ideas for our waking lives, they can allow us to rehearse or practice for future events, they can help us learn about our bodies’ physical needs, improve our diets, heal emotional wounds from troubled relationships, help us become more confident, secure, and social… the list goes on. One of the best features of ordinary dreams is that they can help us get in touch with our feelings, because our rational thinking minds can often get in the way of that in waking life.
Yes! Studies have shown that everyone dreams. Usually when people say they don’t dream, they just don’t remember having dreamed. Early observations of sleeping infants led to sleep studies with adults, and the subsequent literature about REM (rapid eye movement) became the foundation for lab based dream studies.
On the other hand, some people do have trouble dreaming if they have insomnia and aren’t able to sleep long enough to get to the parts in a sleep cycle that are most favorable for dreaming. Sometimes people build up a huge sleep debt, and then one day they make up for it by sleeping all day! People can experience a whole flood of dreams on days like these.
About one third of our lives we sleep. Infants experience REM 50% of the time they sleep, while adults on average experience REM about 22% of the time they sleep. In an average adult sleep cycle, REM sleep occurs every 90 minutes for 3 – 55 minute periods, with increasing durations later in sleep. It used to be thought that dreams only happened during REM sleep, but now it’s understood other kinds of dreams happen during other sleep cycles as well. During REM sleep, our muscles become temporarily paralyzed so we don’t act out these dreams with our physical bodies and our eyes, fingers and toes move rapidly.
Most of the dreams reported in sleep labs have been during REM sleep or generally within 8 minutes on either side of REM sleep—and it adds up to something like two and a half hours of dreaming every night whether we remember it or not. That only accounts for periods around REM sleep. Studies have shown that people also dream during periods of Non-REM sleep, especially with extraordinary and other kinds of dreams. One example of this is hypnogogic (as you’re falling asleep) and hypnopompic (as you’re waking up) imagery. So the time a person spends dreaming—whether ordinary or extraordinary—could be even longer than that.
Yes! Scientists have found that all mammals, birds, and some other animals dream. If you’ve ever observed your pets sleeping, you may have seen some clues that made you think they were dreaming. Studies have shown rats retracing their paths in mazes during dreams, and finches singing songs from the day in their dreams.
Usually, scientists have looked for signs of REM sleep in order to discern if animals dream. There are studies that claim some reptiles display characteristics of REM.
Although usually animals can’t confirm for us that they were dreaming, there have been exceptions. For example, some gorillas studied and cared for by scientists have used sign language to tell stories about their experiences during sleep.
Remembering dreams usually requires a dedicated intention to do so. Mind-altering substances including many medications can prevent dream recall, and not getting enough sleep is another societal problem that prevents dream recall. It really helps improve dream recall to write your dreams down in a journal, preferably the moment you wake up.
Sharing your dreams with other people you feel safe with and trust also improves dream memory. The trust part is very important, so you want to choose carefully who you decide to share dreams with and how you share them. DreamsCloud for example, is a great place to share dreams because you know the community of people sharing and reflecting dreams here are already interested in dreams. Being interested in dreams is a great way to improve dream recall!
A recurring dream is a sign that it is very important: the dream seems to want the dreamer to pay attention to its message! There is often something that needs to be resolved on a deep level. We often have reccurring dreams when a situation in waking life is not being adequately addressed. An important dream or dream theme like this will usually repeat until the dreamer has a grasp of its meaning, learns the dream’s lesson, and the underlying issue is tended to in waking life.
Because there are many different kinds of dreams, there are other reasons for recurring dreams as well. These include anxiety based work dreams, PTSD nightmares, lucid dream practice sessions, and healthy integration of the adult Self through sexual dreams—to name a few.
There’s a real danger of falling into gender-based stereotypes about dreaming. We all have different degrees of masculine and feminine traits. People can dream similarly or differently despite sex or gender identity. Similarities and differences in dreaming style usually have more to do with a person’s background, traits, levels of introversion and/or extroversion, cultural environment, belief system, and world-view than on that person’s sex.
Most of the studies that have been done on this subject were decades ago. Many of the results seem to reflect cultural expectations of the time, such as more aggression in men’s dreams, more sociability in women’s dreams, more sex in men’s dreams, more kissing and romance in women’s dream’s, and so on. To try to transcend these stereotypes, some more recent studies have tried to discern levels of masculine and feminine traits rather than the sex of participant dreamers. There has also been at least one dream study with dreams of trans-gendered individuals, but the general mechanism of dreaming appears to be the same for everyone, regardless of sex/gender.
There are many commonly reported dream themes, some of which include: being chased, falling, flying, water, vehicles, relationships, tests, paralysis, death, babies, food, houses/structures, sex, nudity, teeth falling out, and being in or using a bathroom. These themes can often appear in different stages that correlate with a dreamer’s personal development. How much attention a dreamer pays to dream education will have an influence on the ways in which these common themes are experienced.
Although you can find very helpful potential definitions for these kinds of dream themes on DreamsCloud and elsewhere, just remember that no dream expert has one all-inclusive interpretation that is foolproof and correct for all dreams and all dreamers. Some kinds of extraordinary dreams are not even symbolic! When dream experts reflect on your dreams, those educated suggestions for you to consider are still that person’s projection and influenced by specific dream schools of thought. Only you as the dreamer can truly interpret the meaning of your dream, and how these themes or symbols may connect to the specific events occurring in your life.
As much as we can speculate what the meaning of this very commonly reported dream theme, only you will know for sure. A lot depends on the surrounding conditions and details in the dream, and whose teeth are falling out! One popular way of looking at this dream theme (especially if the dreamer is the one with the teeth falling out) is to connect it with feelings of insecurity in waking life about something difficult to ‘sink one’s teeth into.’ These dreams are often reported during stressful life transitions like moving, starting a new job, and so on.
On the other hand, some people dream about teeth falling out when they have actual, physical, dental issues that need attention! One helpful approach can be to ask “Do I have a physical dental issue in waking life that my dream is alerting me to?”—and if not, to look at teeth falling out in the dream symbolically. This approach can be helpful when looking at many other common dream themes as well. For example, “Do I really feel that way about that person?” can have a “Yes, I do!” answer, or a “No, I really don’t!” answer. When the answer is no, ruling out the obvious and looking at the dream theme symbolically can provide a lot of insight.
What we experience in waking life has a direct impact on our dreams, and our dream experiences have an effect on our waking life experiences. When we dream, we continue dealing with our waking life issues and conditions—sometimes in very creative ways, sometimes not. It depends on the dreamer.
Dreams have a lot to offer us. They can help us solve problems, give us creative ideas for our waking lives, allow us to rehearse or practice for future events, help us learn about our bodies’ physical needs, improve our diets, heal emotional wounds from troubled relationships, help us become more confident, secure, and social—the list goes on. One of the best features of ordinary dreams is that they can help us get in touch with our feelings, because our rational thinking minds can often get in the way of that in waking life.
To improve dream recall and gain personal insight into your life, it really helps to write your dreams down in a journal—preferably the moment you wake up. Keeping a dream journal provides you with a special place to create your own dream reports. Dream reports are usually the main data dream researchers work with, so having your own dream reports allows you the opportunity to get to know yourself that much better! Once you have a dream journal, you can learn more about your feelings, common themes, problems to solve, and creativity in waking life by reading back over your dreams and working with them.
It is highly recommended to choose or make a journal that you love the look and feel of in your hands. It is also recommended to keep a pen with it that feels good and flows well in your hands because you will probably use it more. Even in the middle of the night, if you wake up briefly, you can write down one or two words. When you read those words in the morning, more from the dream will often be more easily remembered to write down. You can also create an online dream journal and post your dreams on DreamsCloud! These days, some people prefer to skip the paper journal altogether, and go straight to the DreamsCloud app. Either way is beneficial—it’s just a matter of personal preference.
Dream life and waking life are cyclically connected, because we go back and forth between them daily. Dreams often include details from the previous day carried over into the dream. Just as waking life influences dreams, dreams also influence waking life. A great dream can make someone feel great the next day, and a gloomy dream can linger into the next day as well. Dreams can influence the decisions we make toward health and wholeness in waking life.
Dreams allow us to cultivate imagination because they offer dreamscapes where anything that can be imagined is possible. When certain kinds of dreams and nightmares are ignored or neglected, they can cause a lot of unnecessary fear, anxiety, and distress for us in waking life. Some dreams are creative and inspiring, perhaps helping us solve problems or generate ideas in waking life. Dreams have the potential to help us become more in tune with our authentic feelings, so we can act upon them and make better, more informed decisions in our waking lives.
Death in dreams is a normal and common theme—especially for growing teens and others going through big changes in waking life. Something that might seem negative or scary like death in dreams, can often symbolize these changes and growth, and be quite positive even when it's not always apparently so. A widely shared way of looking at it in ordinary dreams, is that death and dying represents parts of the dreamer that are dying because the dreamer is no longer served by those parts of him/herself.
Sometimes people have extraordinary dreams about death and dying that are connected to literal events in waking life. For example, many people have had pre-cognitive dreams of relatives or others dying just before they died, and many people have had dreams informing them to seek medical help that can save their own lives. Although extraordinary dreams can leave a powerful impression and are extremely meaningful to the dreamer, by definition they tend to be the exception, not the rule.
Ordinary violent and end-of-the-world nightmares are normal, and common. They are especially normal for growing young people, and others going through many changes. Something that might seem negative or scary in a dream can often symbolize these changes and growth, and be quite positive although that's not always apparent. Bizarre, disgusting, and repulsive dreams are usually metaphorical in nature. For example, if you have violent dreams, it does not mean you are a violent person in waking life. It could mean that you have very strong feelings about something that is changing—or needs to change in yourself and in your life.
One way of looking at apocalyptic dreams is that they can happen when a dreamer’s ‘entire world’ in waking life is completely changing! Just as death is often associated with change in dreams, apocalyptic dreams can be viewed as a much bigger, more all-encompassing change. If you are having an end-of-the-world dream, you could ask yourself “How is everything in my life changing right now?” to see if that makes sense for you.
One reason that many characters appear to be strangers to us in ordinary dreams is because we come in contact with so many people during the day that we don’t interact with or consciously acknowledge. That makes it easy for their images to sneak into our subconscious minds, as aspects of the Self that we as dreamers do not recognize. When we look at it this way, strangers in dreams can represent parts of us that we just don’t know very well yet.
Another way to look at strangers in dreams is to ask the question, “Why are there strangers/unknown people to me in my waking life?” Some dream scholars believe we can travel in our dreams, especially if they are certain types of extraordinary dreams. For example, there is evidence that it might be possible for two or more friends to meet in shared lucid dreams. Following that theory, it might be possible for two or more strangers to meet in an extraordinary shared dream as well.
Dreams reported after waking from REM sleep are usually more vivid than dreams reported after waking from Non-REM sleep. Lucid dreams are known to be quite vivid, and nightmares can be extremely vivid. When a dream is vivid, it captures the dreamer’s attention. It also makes it much easier to remember and describe.
Vivid dreams will become as significant, more significant, or less significant as the dreamer decides. Some extraordinary dreams experienced in NREM sleep might not be as visually vivid as dreams during REM sleep, but can be more powerful and memorable in other ways. The measure of significance from dream to dream always depends on the way each dreamer views his/her dreams.
'Lucid dreaming' and 'dream control' often get confused. The gift of lucid dreaming is knowing one is dreaming while dreaming. As a lucid dreamer develops, he or she learns to make choices within the dream rather than passively experiencing environments, relationships and events. So yes, it is definitely possible to develop awareness in dreams and become able to 'control' and change variable degrees of dreaming by participating imaginatively.
The idea of dream control gained popularity because it empowered dreamers and countered the idea that dreamers were left to feel powerless in dreams.
However, it is incorrect to assume that even the most advanced lucid dreamer will always be able to control everything. Lucid dreaming is interactive and participatory. Complete 'dream control' is more possible in daydream type situations.
Although some people seem to lucid dream more naturally than others, lucid dreaming is also a skill that can be learned. Perhaps your friend has dedicated more time to exploring the subject of lucid dreaming, or developing lucid dreaming skills. It is not too late—you can develop your lucid dreaming skills whenever you decide it is something you want to do.
Competing with friends about ‘who is a better or more advanced lucid dreamer’ can seem pretty silly, but even lucid dreaming appeals to the competitive side of people if they are inclined to be generally competitive. A more social attitude is to approach lucid dreaming cooperatively—maybe you and your friend could try to meet in a shared lucid dream!
You can fly in your dreams because the laws of physics we experience in waking life do not apply in dreams! It is usually a wonderful feeling to fly in our dreams, and is often accompanied with lucid dreaming (the awareness of dreaming while dreaming). Other examples of the different ‘laws’ of dreamtime are when we levitate in dreams, choose to turn a falling dream into a flying dream, or do things like stop an apple from falling in mid-air just by thinking it.
When people become lucid in dreams, they realize that when they direct their mind in the dream, they can co-create with it—and this is often a very exciting feeling. For example, in lucid dreams, all dreamers need to do is imagine the place they want to go, and like a bird, a plane, a magician, or a superhero… fly there!
Sleepwalking used to be known as ‘somnambulism.’ It’s when people walk during sleep, usually in the slow wave, deep sleep stages of Non-REM. Sleepwalking is common and normal in childhood, usually decreasing by the age of 12 and moving into adolescence—although adults sleepwalk too. Most cases of sleepwalking are considered normal. Waking up a sleepwalker is generally safe, and gently guiding a sleepwalker back to bed while talking to them is often effective. Children can either calmly sleepwalk to their parents’ bedroom, or behave strangely while sleepwalking because they are still experiencing something from a dream or nightmare.
Sometimes adults go as far as cooking meals, doing housework, driving, or ending up in strange places that they don’t remember how they got there, while sleepwalking. Young children can start sleepwalking as soon as they can walk, which can potentially be dangerous. For that reason, it’s advised to take precautions such as safety gates on stairways, and bells on bedroom doorknobs. We don’t know exactly why people sleepwalk, but we do know that sleepwalkers experience different stages of sleep and consciousness, crossing over in ways that they normally do not.
The meaning of dreams can only be decided for sure by the dreamer. However, pregnancy in dreams is often interpreted in many different systems and cultures as a metaphor for creativity and preparing to ‘give birth’ to an idea or project. Sometimes pregnancy dreams can induce lucid dreaming (being aware one is dreaming while dreaming) because they can challenge our waking life conventions. For example, in dreams, an entire pregnancy and birth could happen in just a few seconds! In dreams, because time is often experienced differently, a baby can grow up into an adult within a few seconds too.
On the other hand, people also dream about pregnancy when an actual pregnancy is the waking life issue. The kinds of extraordinary dreams pregnant women have is a topic all of its own! Pregnancy dreams are not just for women—men also have dreams related to pregnancy when they are expecting a child in the family, or when working on creative projects. One helpful approach can be to ask, “Do I, or does my partner have a physical pregnancy in waking life that my dream is alerting me to? If not, the dreamer can look at pregnancy in the dream symbolically. This approach can be helpful when looking at many other common dream themes as well.
When we dream someone is cheating, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person is cheating on us in waking life. It’s possible that we can pick up clues about real cheating on a subconscious level that becomes more clear to us in our dreams. Since most of the characters in ordinary dreams are often seen as aspects of the dreamer, another way of looking at cheating dreams is symbolically. For example, not being true to yourself (cheating) in some action in waking life, or just feeling insecure about a relationship could bring these kinds of dreams on.
On the other hand, when we dream that we are the ones cheating, it doesn’t necessarily mean we want to act on it in waking life either. Only the dreamer will know for sure, and of course it’s possible that an attraction exists. More often, dreams of cheating with someone other that our partners is seen as a healthy way to connect with masculine and feminine parts of ourselves that are represented by people we identify with or admire in waking life. That doesn’t usually mean we want to break up our current relationships for them!
No. If you are gay, that means you are gay! If you are not gay, having dreams of connecting sexually with someone of the same sex in a dream is considered generally very healthy. If we look at the characters in our dreams as masculine and feminine parts of ourselves, it’s easy to see that coming together with these parts in a loving way is a good thing. Kissing or making love with someone of the same sex often means that the dreamer is loving and accepting something about him/herself.
On the other hand, sometimes people dream about someone of the same sex/gender because they are gay in waking life. Only the dreamer knows for sure.
Some people say that they dream only in black and white. However, if dreamers are not color blind, and they start to pay attention to their dreams regularly, it is possible for them to start dreaming in color. This is true even if all previously remembered dreams were in black and white.
There are people who dream in color sometimes, and in black and white other times. In these cases, the dreamer can ask him/herself, “What is happening in my waking life right now that is causing me to see the world in extremes?” using ‘black and white’ as a metaphor for extreme dualities. When people who remember watching television back when it was first invented (or watch a lot of old movies) dream in black and white, their dreamscapes can be influenced by that experience in waking life, and the mood it created for them.
Dreams are weird because there are different rules in dreams that simply don’t apply in waking life, and vice versa. Ordinary dreams most often tell stories to the dreamer using metaphors, symbols, and puns, which make our waking life associations seem illogical at first glance. Dream language can be tricky, so positive could be negative, and negative could be positive. Also, the laws of physics in waking life don’t get in the way of a dreamer lifting a house, engaging in levitation or flying! Time is experienced differently in dreams, which is why someone can give birth in a dream after being pregnant for 10 seconds rather than 9 months!
We have conventions in waking life that are not actually necessary in dreams—which makes them more symbolic than literal when they show up in dreamscapes. We don’t need money in dreams, so when money shows up in a dream it can symbolize something else, such as possessiveness. For example, winning the lottery in waking life—we imagine would feel positive. Winning the lottery in an ordinary dream could have more to do with stubbornly holding onto a whole bunch of unresolved issues than predicting winning the lottery in waking life. Because of this discrepancy between worlds, dreams will seem weird until we engage in dream education, and start to strengthen our abilities with understanding dream language.
There are different opinions about nightmares in the field of dream studies. One idea is that nightmares happen when there is distress in waking life. However, that is not always obviously the case. There are different kinds of nightmares. For example, returning veterans and others suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) often dream versions of traumatic events they've experienced. On the other hand, nightmares are very common with children, and are a healthy part of development. Some dream experts believe nightmares help prepare people for stressful situations in waking life. Some believe they are the best kind of dreams to aid people to learn lucid dreaming. Some believe they may contain important warnings for the dreamer to pay attention to.
Most nightmares are absolutely normal, especially for growing young people who are going through many changes. Something that might seem negative or scary, can often symbolize these changes and growth, and be quite positive. It's not always apparent that this is the case, but often it is. Knowledge is power—and understanding nightmares is the first step toward making them less scary. Nightmares offer great opportunities for dreamers to learn about themselves. Once meaning is discovered, nightmares can help people stretch and grow more than other kinds of dreams. Once they are understood, nightmares often develop courage, and the ability to face life's challenges.
Dream dictionaries can sometimes be useful tools to explore various interpretations for dream themes and symbols, but it is a mistake to believe that a dream dictionary’s definition is the only way of looking at a dream symbol or theme. To find your own dream interpretations, you can explore more than one source that provides a definition for a theme or symbol in your dream. There are many interesting books about symbols that aren’t dream dictionaries, and there are other ways to research dream elements that can be useful when playing ‘dream detective.’
When you post a dream on DreamsCloud and request a professional dream reflection, you will gain one more trusted source—but even our reflections aren’t the final word. As dreamer, you will always have the right to accept what feels right, and reject what doesn’t. Our professional Dream Reflectors offer useful questions and model helpful techniques. Instead of telling you what your dreams mean, they present experienced projections of what your dreams would mean “If they were their dreams…” These reflections model self-dream-interpretation, and often demonstrate ways you can make your dream lives more accessible to your waking lives.
Learning to understand the meaning of dreams is kind of like learning another language. There are also different offshoots within the larger dream language, and finding the right one is part of the dreamer’s path when searching for meaning. For example: Freudians speak a Freudian dream language, Jungians speak a Jungian dream language, Lucid dreamers speak a Lucid dream language, and so on. Some dreamers are multi-lingual, and that’s fun.
When trying to find meaning in your dreams, try learning and speaking whatever ‘dream language’ you want, read any books or blogs about symbolism you want, and consider any other ‘dream language’ you’ve heard that might be helpful. The more dream education you have, and the larger your community of fellow dreamers becomes—the more options you’ll have at your fingertips. Then, you get the final word about what your dreams mean for you.
Dream dictionaries can sometimes be useful tools to explore various interpretations for dream themes and symbols, but it is a mistake to believe that a dream dictionary’s definition is the only way of looking at a dream symbol or theme. You, the dreamer, are the only one who knows for certain what your dreams mean. To find your own dream interpretations, explore more than one source that provides a definition for a theme or symbol in your dream. There are many interesting books about symbols that aren’t called dream dictionaries, and there are other ways to research dream elements that can be useful when playing ‘dream detective.’
Other ideas: try acting out, painting, or drawing your dream and see if that helps you understand its meaning. If you like to write, try turning a dream into a story, or a script. If you play an instrument, try composing the dream. Sometimes feeling your way through a dream artistically can be more valuable to a dreamer than trying to sort it out intellectually.
“Systems of dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the dream's meanings to someone other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful.”*
No one knows the dreamer intimately enough to know for certain what the symbols, settings, actions and people in their dreams mean. Any interpretation, reflection or other commentary made on someone’s dream reveals more about the commenter than about the dreamer, and is based on that person’s personal experiences, beliefs, and professional background.
At DreamsCloud, we offer projective dream reflections by our team of respected dreamworkers, psychologists, social workers and authors with decades of experience in the field of dream studies. We want to empower you to consider and discover your own dream interpretations by offering insightful dream reflections that may or may not resonate, but will always give you something to think about. The final interpretation is yours!
This kind of extraordinary dreaming has its own category; it is called pre-cognitive dreaming. Precognitive dreams have been reported throughout history. Although it is not the main kind of dreaming that most people usually have, it happens more than most people are aware of.
A precognitive dream is when a dream predicts a future event in waking life, or is otherwise associated or linked to that future event without any conscious plans by the dreamer to connect them. We never know if a dream was precognitive until the associated, unplanned, future event takes place. Usually, people remember they dreamed something once the connected waking life event takes place, and often the dreamer has feelings of déjà vu. Precognitive dreams are more easily confirmed when dreamers look back on detailed dream journals they’ve kept with accurate dates and times. However, some seemingly precognitive dreams may actually stem from unconscious stimuli and cues received while awake.
This kind of extraordinary dreaming has its own category; it is called collective dreaming. Collective dreams have been reported throughout history. Although it is not the main kind of dreaming that most people usually have, it happens more than most people are aware of.
Collective dreams have these sub-categories: mutual dreams, and shared dreams. Mutual dreams are when two people have very similar dreams on the same night. For example, one person says, “I dreamed about our mother last night, and she hugged me” and another person says, “I dreamed about our mother last night too, but she scolded me!” Shared dreams are when two people share the same experience of having met each other in a dream. Usually, shared dreams occur when two people share the intention to meet each other in a dream, and separate dream reports later confirm matching environments and details in the shared dream.
This kind of extraordinary dreaming has its own category; it is called clairvoyant dreaming. Clairvoyant dreams have been reported throughout history. Although it is not the main kind of dreaming that most people usually have, it happens more than most people are aware of.
Clairvoyant dreams are when dreamers are able to experience events in remote locations that they would normally not have access to. For example: someone is taking a nap and dreaming about a friend coming over to visit. Although she isn’t expecting company, the dreamer can see her friend walking through an environment to get to her home. When the doorbell rings, she wakes up, answers the door, and describes the environment she saw in the dream, which her friend then confirms matches her journey in every detail. Clairvoyant dreams can sometimes overlap with other kinds of extraordinary dreams, such as precognitive and telepathic dreams.
Visitation dreams have been reported throughout recorded history and those who experience them often feel certain that the loved one was actually there. These dreams are usually reported as being “different”, “vivid” or “more real” than other dreams. Usually when people have these kinds of dreams, there tends to be a profound message the dreamer perceives coming from the deceased relative or friend.
Another way to look at these ‘visitation’ dreams is to consider the person appearing in the dream as the part of the dreamer that identifies with certain qualities of that person when he/she was still alive. These special encounters typically help the dreamer integrate these associated qualities into his/her character. Whether the deceased person was ‘actually there’ or not in a dream experience is left to the dreamer to decide.
There are many benefits to sharing dreams. When we share dreams with people we trust, it can empower us with sympathy, understanding, self-esteem, and a sense of community. When we learn by sharing dreams in a group how much commonality there is in dream experiences, it allows us to develop more compassion for others.
On DreamsCloud you have the option to share dreams anonymously if you want, which provides a way to build community, share and reflect on dreams even without knowing the other dreamers personally. We can learn a lot by reading and reflecting dreams of others, and reading the reflections others offer to us about our dreams. A dreamer always has the right to accept or reject dream reflections offered by others.
Yes, dreams have inspired numerous inventions and innovations. A very famous example of this is Elias Howe’s invention of the needle for the sewing machine. He dreamed that he was captured by a tribe with spears that had a hole at the tip—and they told him to finish inventing the sewing machine! In 1869, Dmitri Mendelyev published his periodic table of the elements—which he attributed to a dream in which he saw all of the elements in their rightful place. In the 1890s, Madam C.J. Walker’s scalp infection caused her hair to fall out. She had a dream that informed her of ingredients to use for a remedy. She imported the ingredients from Africa, made a powerfully effective product, and became the first American female self-made millionaire. Frederick Banting dreamed the discovery and use of insulin to treat diabetes, and won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1923.
These are just a handful of examples, but the list goes on and on. The most recent world-changing example of a dream inspired famous invention happened when the co-founder of Google, Larry Page was twenty-three years old. He woke in the middle of the night and scribbled pages and pages of ideas for the invention that later became Google!
Throughout history dreams have inspired famous creative works in the fields of visual art, literature, theater, drama, psychodrama, early film, modern film, dance, and music. For example, Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner all composed music that was inspired by their dreams. So have Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, and Billy Joel. Dream inspired writing lives in the works of William Shakespeare, Jean Cocteau, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jack Karouac. The works of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Salvador Dali, John Sayles, David Lynch, and Christopher Nolan have been influenced and inspired by dreams.
However, you don’t have to be a famous, eminent creator to link your dreams to a form of creative expression! Creativity is every person’s birthright, and takes many different forms—even in everyday life. Some people dream about recipes for cooking, get ideas in dreams about clothes to make, or dream about the color to paint the living room. Some people dream the baby’s name when they are expecting a child. Following through creatively in waking life when a dream inspires you can be very rewarding!
This experience is known as “sleep paralysis”. Normally when you are in REM sleep, the most active dream stage, the body is paralyzed. This prevents you from acting out your dreams and potentially hurting yourself or others. What happens sometimes is that you partially wake up from REM when you are still paralyzed. It is more common than you might think and has been reported for thousands of years.
Sometimes a form of sleep paralysis is experienced when falling asleep or waking up, accompanied by natural hallucinations that are called hypnogogic (when falling asleep) or hypnopompic (when waking up) imagery. Although this can be frightening or enlightening, it is normal and not harmful to the dreamer.