Maybe you have a friend who is always telling you about their crazy dreams: scary, funny, raunchy—or even all three in the same night. But what if you barely remember your dreams, if at all? Does the fact that you don’t remember your dreams mean they didn’t happen? What does it mean if some people don’t dream?
Why Do Some People Not Dream?
First and foremost, it is critical to recognize that dreaming is, at its core, a thinking process. “It is a continuation of our stream of thought from the day,” says Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a dream analyst and sleep expert. We have an internal dialogue with ourselves all day as we go about our business. We think and talk to ourselves all day long, whether we’re driving to work, loading the dishwasher, or showering. This thought stream, she adds, continues as we fall asleep. So, once we enter the REM stage of our sleep cycle, which is where we can have dreams, the brain begins to think all over again, and thus a dream comes to life (in a sense).
“The brain resumes that inner conversation once we enter REM dream sleep, which occurs about 90 minutes into sleep.” But now, instead of thinking in words, we think in symbols, metaphors, and emotions because the brain is working differently, according to Loewenberg. “One difference in sleeping brain function is that the part of the frontal lobe that controls rational and linear thought goes dormant, which explains why dreams can be so imaginative.” “In addition, the amygdala, which regulates emotions, becomes highly active, which explains why our dreams can be extremely frustrating, frightening, or even amazing,” she says.
With this in mind, it is critical to recognize that dreams are not meaningless. You can delve deeper into dreams’ messages by working to understand symbolism, metaphors, and extracting meaning from what you’re experiencing in dreams. These messages can be an exploration of personal issues, relationships, goals, and more. Cane to look at ourselves and our issues in a metaphorical light during this subconscious exploration, she says. This can be enlightening for the soul.
What Does It Mean When People Don’t Dream?
To put it simply, it means nothing because you dream. You may not believe you are dreaming because you do not remember your dreams, which is a fairly common occurrence. “We dream every 90 minutes throughout the night,” Loewenberg says, “and whether you remember them or not, you are dreaming because it is a natural and necessary function of the brain.”
In general, you dream every 90 minutes throughout the night (if you sleep well and without interruptions), and you may have five or more dreams if this is the case. “Each cycle of dreaming throughout the night is longer than the previous,” Loewenberg explains, “so your first dream is about five to seven minutes long.” Each dream grows in length, and the last dream before waking up can be 45 minutes or longer, even though you can have over 100,000 dreams in your lifetime. However, it’s possible that you won’t remember them.
There are several reasons why a people may have difficulty remembering their dreams, but the main one is that norepinephrine, the chemical associated with memory, is at its lowest during the REM phase, or dreaming phase, of sleep. “You don’t always capture your dreams because the memory of your dreams is pretty much gone within 90 seconds of waking up,” Loewenberg says.
Why You May Not Dream And How Dreams Work
We don’t know for sure if someone never dreams. We do know that some people have trouble remembering their dream, if at all. You’re not alone if you have trouble remembering your dreams.
Most of us have 4 to 6 dreams per night, but the vast majority of them are forgotten. The most likely dream you’ll remember is the one you had just before waking up.
Dreams typically occur during the sleep cycle’s rapid eye movement (REM). According to a 2019 study, our ability to form memories is impaired during REM sleep. That would help to explain why we forget our dreams.
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Missing REM sleep may also mean missing out on dreams. Poor sleep can be the result of or a contributing factor to a health problem.
#1. Sleep disorders
Insomnia and sleep apnea can prevent you from entering the REM sleep cycle. Insomnia can put you at risk for:
- Cardiovascular disease
Other factors that may contribute to sleep deprivation include:
- Alcoholic beverage
- Adverse drug reactions
In adults suffering from depression, up to 90% report difficulty sleeping, with insomnia being the most common complaint. This could explain why you have fewer or fewer memorable dreams. However, depression can cause disturbing dreams or nightmares.
#3. Bipolar disorder
Sleep issues are very common in people with bipolar disorder. Sleep disturbances can precipitate a manic or depressive episode. Furthermore, sleep disruption, such as needing less sleep or having difficulty falling asleep, affects between 69 and 99 percent of people experiencing a manic episode.
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#4. Anxiety difficulties
Insomnia can be a risk factor for anxiety or a symptom of anxiety. People who have: report sleeping difficulties.
- Anxiety disorder in general
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Although a lack of REM sleep can reduce the number of dreams, anxious people are more likely to have a frightening dream.
#5. Anxiety or depression medication
When you take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac) or sertraline, you may not have vivid dreams (Zoloft). These are frequently prescribed to treat anxiety or depression. SSRIs can interfere with REM sleep, which is required for vivid dreams.
How Do I Know If I’m Dreaming or Not Remembering My Dreams?
Wake up earlier, says Pelayo, to see if you’re just sleeping through your dreams. Purchasing a sleep tracker can help you determine if and when you’re having REM sleep, he says—once you’ve determined when you’re likely to be in REM, all you have to do is set an alarm during that time. “The whole point is to disrupt your sleep,” he explains. “Then you should have better dream recall.”
Because most dreams occur during the final hours of sleep, you may not need to wake up much earlier than usual to catch a dream before it ends. “Once you know you have REM, you can probably just set your alarm for an hour earlier,” Pelayo says. When I think about the few dreams I do remember, this makes perfect sense. Those are the dreams that always seem to end abruptly—the ones that make me feel like I’m being physically thrashed out of my brain at four or five a.m.
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I was relieved to discover, thanks to Pelayo’s alarm trick, that I do, have REM and dreams that I’ve been sleeping through. If you do decide to use a sleep tracker to track your REM sleep, Baron recommends taking its readings with a grain of salt. “I believe that the use of sleep trackers causes people to worry about not getting enough REM sleep,” she warns. Even if your tracker indicates that you are getting less sleep than the average person, this does not imply that you have a sleep disorder. “Even in a healthy sleeper, there can be some variation in how much REM an individual gets.”
Is There Anything Wrong With Forgetting Your Dreams?
Experts may be concerned about an inability to dream due to a lack of overall sleep — but what about sleeping through dreams? Can I still benefit emotionally and cognitively from dreams if I’m barely aware that I’m having them? When I ask, Pelayo and Baron both assure me that sleeping through dreams and forgetting them is completely normal.
“Whether or not you remember your dreams is not a good indicator of how well you sleep,” says Baron. The most important thing, according to Pelayo, is that I’m getting enough sleep. “If you wake up refreshed in the morning, you’re probably sleeping just fine, and there’s nothing unusual about it.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief. I won’t be waking up at ungodly hours to remember my dreams more frequently, but I can rest easy knowing they’re happening when they should be. Furthermore, I’ll probably continue to miss out on group discussions about people’s dreams from the night before, but I’m not missing out on dreaming in general. Phew.
How to Train Yourself to Remember Dreams Better
To remember dreams, you must allow yourself a few minutes in bed before starting your day to return to your dreaming state. “You must also stay in the position you awoke in because that is the position you were dreaming in, and moving your body can disconnect you from the dream you were probably having just minutes ago,” Loewenberg says.
Quiet your mind, don’t move your body and stay in the position you were dreaming in for three to five minutes to allow the dream to return to you. “Write it down or record it into your phone—or it’ll be gone by breakfast,” Loewenberg advises. “If you do this every morning, you will begin to remember more and more of your dreams.”
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People can take this dream journaling exercise a step further by using it more frequently than just when they wake up during the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Loewenberg recommends writing down your day on the left side of the journal before going to bed. Include what happened, what you talked about, what you struggled with, what you accomplished, what was on your mind the most during the day, and your overall emotions. Then go to bed.
When you wake up, write down your dreams on the right side of your journal. “Now you have your dreams and your previous day side by side, so you can connect the dots more easily,” she says.
It’s more likely that people don’t remember their dream than they don’t dream at all. Not dreaming is not a cause for concern on its own, and there are a few things you can do to encourage dream memory.
Another story is when a lack of dreaming is caused due to lack of quality sleep. Sleep deprivation could indicate a physical or mental health problem. Chronic sleep problems can hurt your overall health. Sleep disorders are treatable, so seeing a doctor is a good idea.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it rare to not dream?
According to questionnaire surveys, up to 6.5% of people say they “never dream.” Although the majority of these people claim to have dreamed at some point in their people, roughly one in every 250 claims to have never dreamed — not even once.
What is it called when you can't dream?
Charcot-Wilbrand Syndrome (CWS) is characterized by dream loss following focal brain damage, specifically visual agnosia and loss of ability to mentally recall or “revisualize” images.
Do psychopaths have dreams?
According to a new study, psychopaths have more sexual and aggressive dreams than other people. Previous research has shown that psychopaths live quickly and frequently act impulsively. This way of life may seep into their dreams.
Is it possible not to dream at all?
While we know that every human being has REM sleep, not every human being reports dreams. It appears that you can have REM sleep with very little dream recall or even without dreams at all. There may even be groups of people who never remember their dreams or do not dream at all.