- Egyptian pharaohs were considered children of Ra (Egyptian sun god) and, thus, their dreams were seen as being divine.
- In the Chinese province of Fu-Kein, people called on their ancestors for dream revelation by sleeping on graves.
- Scientists suggest that the dreams of fetuses are mostly composed of sound and touch sensations, given the lack of visual stimuli in the womb.
- Among the six dreams reported in the New Testament are the dreams that communicate divine knowledge, instruction, and warning to Joseph, husband of Mary, mother of Jesus.
- About 80% of neonatal and newborn sleep time is REM sleep, suggesting a tremendous amount of time dreaming.
- According to Plato, dreams originate in the organs of the belly. Plato describes the liver in particular as the biological seat of dreams.
- Elias Howe (1819-1867) said one inspiration for his invention of the sewing machine came from a nightmare he had about being attacked by cannibals bearing spears that looked like the needle he then designed.
- The average person has about 1,460 dreams a year. That’s about four per night.
People are more likely to remember their dreams if they wake up during the REM phase
- Modern research has shown that a sharp decrease in daily calories results in fewer nocturnal ejaculations in men and an overall decrease in the sexual themes of dreams.
- Aside from those who experience certain kinds of injury, it’s a biological fact that everyone dreams. However, not everyone remembers his or her dreams.
- Most of us dream every 90 minutes, and the longest dreams (30-45 minutes) occur in the morning.
- The scientific study of dreams is known as oneirology (Latin oneiros: dream, ology: writing).
- One West African group, the Ashanti, take dreams so seriously that they would allow a husband to take legal action against another man if that man had an erotic dream about his wife.
- Lilith, who in some accounts preceded Eve in the Garden of Eden, fled the Garden when she learned that God expected her to “lay under” Adam. She later becomes an early version of a succubi, or night demon, who causes men's nocturnal ejaculations in order to feed on the resulting bodily fluids.
- Discovered in 1856, the planet Neptune (which is named after the Roman god of the sea) is considered the planet of dreams—because, like water, dreams distort and cloud images and meaning. Additionally, water represents the depths of the unconscious and our emotional levels in dream imagery, places that our dreams take us.
Dreams help us process new, emotionally important information
- By the time we die, most of us will have spent a quarter of a century asleep, of which six years or more will have been spent dreaming—and almost all of those dreams are forgotten upon waking.
- During REM sleep, the flow of blood to the brain increases, as does the brain’s temperature. Additionally, both the penis and the clitoris become erect.
- Dreams of dirty water may signal that the unconscious mind is telling the dreamer he or she is not healthy.
- The Buddhist exercise practice of yoga has many benefits, including helping one learn how to control his or her dreams by controlling the body’s vital energies.
- An alien in a dream may indicate that the dreamer is experiencing difficulty adjusting to new conditions or a new environment, or that his or her personal space is being invaded.
- Cakes in dreams can signify a time to rejoice at one’s accomplishments, or to celebrate new relationships or work efforts that have been successful but not necessarily acknowledged.
- Chocolate in a dream may symbolize that the dreamer feels the need to be rewarded and deserves special treatment. It could also mean that the dreamer has been indulging in too many excesses and needs to practice restraint.
- Standing on a cliff in a dream can represent that one has a broad view of something or that the dreamer feels like he or she is living on the edge or is afraid of failure.
- Colors in dreams can be interpreted only in the context of the dreamer’s relationship with that color. For example, the color red may be experienced as love or sex for one person—but for someone else, red may denote blood or destruction.
Dreams about losing teeth are common in times of stress or anxiety
- Dreams of losing teeth or having teeth extracted can signify many things, including fears of helplessness or of some sort of loss in one’s life. Women experience more teeth dreams than men.
- Large bodies of water often symbolize the unconscious, so dreams of drowning may indicate being overwhelmed by unconscious, repressed issues. Drowning can also symbolize that the dreamer is entering a new stage of development and that the old self is “dying.”
- Feet in dreams can symbolize everything from sex to humiliation. They can also represent mobility, freedom, or a foundation.
- Forests, like water, are often symbols of the unconscious. Traveling into a forest indicates exploration of the unconscious realm or represents a comforting refuge from the demands of everyday life.
- A house in a dream is often a symbol of our body, so a mansion in a dream can represent a “rich” or even exaggerated sense of self. A mansion might also represent our future potential.
- Expectant parents often have dreams about miscarriages, but this is almost always a symbol of their anxiety about the baby rather than a prediction. Miscarriage dreams are also powerful symbols of projects or business deals that have gone wrong.
- Being naked in a dream suggests exposure of self to others, vulnerability, or feeling ashamed. Alternatively, it can also represent a desire for freedom or being unencumbered.
- Vampires are important fixtures in folklore, and their appearance in dreams can represent our general fears and anxieties or can embody anxieties about our sexuality.
- Because nightmares were thought to be from menacing spirits, such as witches, folklore suggests placing a knife under the foot of the bed. Evil spirits were thought to be repelled by the steel on the knife.
Fear is not the most common emotion in a nightmare; instead confusion, guilt and sadness are the most common
- All cultures and time periods report nightmares. The word “nightmare” derives from the Anglo-Saxon word mare, meaning demon—which is related to the Sanskrit mara, meaning destroyer, and mar, meaning to crush. So the word “nightmare” carries with it connotations of being crushed by demonic forces.
- Famous French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) asserts in his essay “Dream, Imagination, and Existence” that dreams are the origin of the human soul. He also posits that dreams about death are the most important type of dream because they are the moment life reaches its fulfillment.
- As related in the epic Gilgamesh, dreams were highly regarded in ancient Mesopotamia as omens of the future or ways in which a dreamer could access other realities, such as the afterlife.
- In ancient Greece, dreams were regarded as messages from the gods. Incubation, or the practice of seeking significant dreams by sleeping in a sacred place, also was popular, particularly in the healing cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus.
- Female demons known as succubi (sub:under, cubare:to lie) and their male counterparts incubi (to lie upon, related to “incubate”) are spirits that sexually molest human dreamers for evil purposes. They also provide convenient explanations for pregnancies resulting from secret affairs, as documented in Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Spenger’s 1486 text, Malleus Maleficarum (“Witch Hammer”).
- Falling dreams typically occur at the beginning of the night, in Stage I sleep. These dreams are often accompanied by muscle spasms, called myoclonic jerks, and are common in many mammals.
- Many people have made discoveries while dreaming—such as Friedrich August von Kekule (1829-1896), who dreamed of a snake biting its own tail and discovered that certain organic compounds are closed chains or rings.
- Vitamin B complex (B6) and St. John’s Wort have been shown to produce more vivid dreams.
- The word “dream” is most likely related to the West Germanic draugmus, (meaning deception, illusion, or phantom) or from the Old Norse draugr (ghost, apparition) or the Sanskrit druh (seek to harm or injure).
We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
- Arthur O'Shaughnessy
- Flying dreams are found around the world and have existed since ancient times, even before the invention of airplanes.
- The Beatty Papyrus, written around 1350 B.C. and discovered at Thebes, is the oldest dream dictionary existing today. It describes special dream-interpreting priests called “Masters of the Secret Things” or “Learned Ones of the Magic Library.”
- After the printing press was invented, a dream dictionary called Oneirocritica (The Interpretation of Dreams) by second-century author Artemidorus Daldianus became one of the first best-sellers, comparable only to the Bible in popularity.
- Sigmund Freud’s (1856-1939) landmark work, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), which became a milestone in dream interpretation, sold only 415 copies in the first two years.
- Dreams played an important part in the life of Muhammad (570-632), who received his first revelation during a dream. His initiation into the mysteries of the cosmos occurred during a dream known as the “Night Journey.” the site of which is now commemorated by the Dome of the Rock.
- In contrast to modern dream interpretation, which is psychologically oriented, ancient dream interpretation was concerned with discovering clues to the future.
- The Iroquois have an annual dream-sharing festival in which they act out their dreams, either literally or in pantomime.
- “Old Hag Syndrome,” or sleep paralysis, occurs in as many as 40% of all people. It happens when a sleeper wakes, recognizes his or her surroundings but is unable to move for as long as a minute. The folklore explanation is that it is caused by a witch, or an old hag, who was coming to get you in your sleep.
Sleep paralysis happens when one wakes up before their body completes the cycle of REM sleep
- Tertullian, a third-century lawyer-turned-priest, argued in his Treatise on the Soul that the ongoing activity of the mind in dreams while the body was motionless proved that the soul was independent of the body and, thus, immortal.
- The fourth-century Christian writer Macrobius' text, Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, was the most influential dream book of medieval Europe. He appears to be the first person to introduce incubi and succubi, which were rooted in earlier Jewish folklore, into Christianity.
- The memory-recording processes of the brain seems to switch off during sleep. In so-called non-dreamers, this memory shutdown is more complete than it is for the rest. Dreams may be forgotten because they are incoherent or because they contain repressed material that the conscious mind does not wish to remember.
- Dreams occupy a prevalent role in movies, including Fritz Lang’s Woman in the Window (1944); Hitchcock’s Spellbound, Psycho, and Marnie, and Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz.
- St. Jerome’s mistranslation of certain key biblical passages led Medieval Christians to fear their dreams and to view them as the devil’s invitation to sin.
- Abraham, the ancestor of the Hebrew nation, was one of the most prolific dreamers in the Hebrew Bible. The first dream in the Bible is in Genesis 15:12-16 and is a dream by Abraham.
Macbeth is haunted by both nightmares and visions throughout the play
- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), like his Greek playwright predecessors, used dreams in his dramas to help advance plot and develop characters. For example, dreams in Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard the III, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear offer key psychological and symbolic insights into the motives and internal landscapes of important characters.
- According to psychologists, daydreaming and dreams during sleep may be related, but different cognitive processes seem to be involved.
- Philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650) struggled with the question of whether or not the mind’s perception of dreams represented reality.
- Psychologists speculate that falling dreams are rooted in our early experiences as toddlers taking our first steps on two legs. Some sociobiologists argue that our fear of falling derives from the experiences of prehistorical ancestors afraid of tumbling out of trees during the night.
- Flying dreams can express both our hopes and fears in life—we can be “flying high” or “risen above” something. Freud associated flying with sexual desire, Alfred Adler with the will to dominate others, and Carl Jung with the desire to break free from restriction.
- Until sometime during the sixteenth century, Chinese society expected prominent political figures to seek dream guidance periodically to maintain balance and objectivity.
- Nicotine patches and even melatonin (an over-the-counter sleep aid) are reported to increase the vividness of dreams and nightmares. The nicotine patch in particular is said to intensify dreams.
- Drugs that are used for regulating the endocrine system, for controlling blood pressure, and for treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease can wreak havoc on form, content, and frequency of dreams.
- The link between hallucinogenic drugs and dreams has been recognized since the time of oldest societies. Belladonna was the drug of ancient oracles of Delphi, used to induce trances and dreams. The early Persians used Haoma for the same general purpose.
Dreams of all types increase during pregnancy
- In general, pregnant women remember dreams more than other populations. This is largely due to the extreme hormonal changes during pregnancy.
- The Egyptians had a male god of dreams, Serapis, who had a number of temples devoted to his worship. These temples housed professional interpreters or “learned ones of the library of magic.” Serapis’ likeness was often carved on the headboards and headrests of Egyptian beds.
- Sufferers of epilepsy can have extremely vivid and disturbing nightmares that immediately precede seizures during the night.
- The archangel Gabriel is considered the archangel of childbirth, emotions, and dreams.
- In Hawaiin mythology, dreams are called moe’uhane or “soul sleep” because it was believed the soul left and entered the physical body through the tear duct, or the lua’uhane or “soul pit” during the night. Nightmares occured when spirits entered the body while the soul was gone. It was possible for a mortal to have sexual relations with that spirit (often referred to as the husband or wife of the night).
- Hypnagogic hallucinations are dreamlike images and sounds that may occur just as a person is falling asleep or waking up.
- U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) suffered from chronic childhood nightmares about paralysis that continued into his adult life.
- Researchers at New York University suggest that wakefulness and REM sleep are essentially similar brain states, differing only in the extent to which they are shaped by sensory stimuli from the outside world.
- Even the occasional use of alcohol can have a significant impact on sleep and dreaming. Alcohol slows activity in the cortex, which causes a person to sink into a deep, slow-wave sleep rather than experiencing REM sleep.
- Finding oneself in a cemetery during a dream may indicate sadness or unresolved grief. It may also represent one’s “dead” past.
Dreams of being nude are common throughout the world
- Common dream motifs that transcend cultural and socio-economic boundaries include falling, flying, nakedness in public, and unpreparedness. Such shared dreams arise from experiences and anxieties fundamental to all people.
- Birth order influences the role of aggression in dreams. While men typically experience more aggressive dreams than women, a firstborn male typically sees himself in a more positive manner than do his younger male siblings. First-born females tend to have more aggressive characters in their dreams.
- Modern studies show that children have more animal dreams than adults. The animal figures that occurred most frequently are dogs, horses, cats, snakes, bears, lions, and mythical creatures or monsters.
- Childhood dreams are shorter than adult dreams and nearly 40% of them are nightmares, which may act as a coping mechanism.
- The Romantic Movement—with its insistence on the unconscious mind as the source of all creativity, art, and even dreams—clearly foreshadowed Sigmund Freud’s groundbreaking work on dreams.
- South Asian Hindus developed the idea that this world is actually a dream and the “real” reality is somewhere else. The Vedas, the oldest Hindu scriptures (3,000-4,000 years old) suggest that people are reincarnated back into this world, which is a dream, and it’s only after breaking the cycle of reincarnation or “waking up” from this dream world, that they’ll understand the truth and become complete.
- The Raramuri people of Northern Mexico make their sleeping arrangements so that they can wake during the night to discuss their dreams with one another.
- The quality of dreams depends, at least in part, on the stage of sleep in which the dreams occur. Dreams during REM tend to be more bizarre and detailed and have story line. Dreams in stages 1 and 2 of sleep are simpler and shorter. Deep-sleep dreams tend to be diffused and may be about nothing more than a color or emotion.
In Roman mythology, Morpheus is the son of Somnus, the god of sleep
- Morpheus is the principle Greek god of dreams and sleep. His name is from the Greek word morphe, meaning “he who forms, shapes, and molds.” Hypnos, the god of sleep, is his father; Pasithea is his mother; and Thanatos, the personification of death, is his uncle.
- Night terrors, or parasomnia, are not the same as nightmares. They are episodes of extreme panic that occur in early sleep and affect from 1%-4% of children between the ages of four and 12. Night terrors are rare in adults and most often occur in those who abuse drugs or alcoholic or have a sleep disorders such as apnea.
- People who are born blind report no visual imagery in dreams, but they experience a heightened sense of taste, touch, and smell. Those who become sightless between the ages of five and seven may have visual images in their dreams, while those who lose their vision after age seven continue to “see” in their dreams, though images tend to fade as they grow older.
- For reasons that are unknown, males dream of males more often than females dream of males. This sexual asymmetry is universal and has emerged from at least 29 different comparisons of male and female dreams—and it holds true for children, adolescents, and adults in all parts of the world.
- The brain waves that occur during REM and non-REM sleep are found in mammals, birds, and reptiles, but not in amphibians and fish.
- Various famous authors attribute their classics to dreams. For example, Mary Shelly claimed inspiration for Frankenstein came directly from her nightmares and Robert Lewis Stevenson accredited his classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the same.
- Those who watched black-and-white television as youngsters tend to have more monochrome dreams than children who watched color television.
- Ancient Hebrews are unique in that they did not believe dreams originated in the realm of the dead, but that they were prophetic messages from God. Therefore, and unlike their neighboring societies, they did not actively seek to induce dreams. An entire section of the Talmud is devoted to systematic analysis of dreams, nightmares, and visions.
- One of the most infamous precognitive dreams in history was President Lincoln's in 1865. The president envisioned his own demise just a few days before he was assassinated in Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865.
- Lucid dreaming occurs when there is a state of partial or complete awareness during the dream state. Researchers have begun to explore the possibility of using lucid dreaming for the treatment of nightmares and other therapeutic purposes. An oneironaut is someone who lucidly dreams. The first reference to lucid dreaming is Aristotle’s On Dreams.
Women also tend to recall their dreams more often than men
- Men’s dreams are more often set outdoors, are more action oriented, are more aggressive, and involve strangers more often than women’s dreams do. Women’s dreams usually happen indoors and involve emotional encounters with people they know and care about.
- Chronic smokers who suddenly quit report more vivid dreams than they had when they smoked.
- If a dreamer is awakened directly from REM sleep, he or she is more likely to remember the dream than if awoken during another stage of sleep or after a complete night’s sleep.
- When deprived of dreams, individuals become irritable and disoriented, hallucinate, and show signs of psychosis. They will also dream excessively the first chance they get in a phenomenon known as “REM rebound.”
1Alleyne, Richard. “Black and White TV Generation Have Monochrome Dreams.” Telegraph.co.uk. October 17, 2008. Accessed: October 20, 2009.
2Belanger, Jeff and Kristin Dalley. The Nightmare Encyclopedia: Your Darkest Dreams Interpreted. Franklin Lakes, NJ: The Career Press, Inc, 2006.
3Brynie, Faith Hickman. Sleep and Dreams: 101 Questions about Sleep and Dreams. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2006.
4Lewis, James R. and Evelyn Dorothy Oliver. The Dream Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press, 2009.
5Regan, Kelly. Field Guide to Dreams: How to Identify and Interpret the Symbols in Your Dreams. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2006.
6Shaw, Tucker. Dreams. New York, NY: 17th Street Productions, 2000.
7The Giant Book of Dreams: Over 10,000 Symbols and Secrets Interpreted. London, UK: Constable & Robinson, 2005.