Average length of dreams

Let’s Talk about…Dreams – Chambers & Blohm Psychological Services in Bismarck ND

Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur usually involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.[1] The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, as well as a subject of philosophical and religious interest, throughout recorded history. The scientific study of dreams is called oneirology.[2]

Dreams mainly occur in the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep—when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. REM sleep is revealed by continuous movements of the eyes during sleep. At times, dreams may occur during other stages of sleep. However, these dreams tend to be much less vivid or memorable. [3]

The length of a dream can vary; they may last for a few seconds, or approximately 20–30 minutes.[3] People are more likely to remember the dream if they are awakened during the REM phase. The average person has three to five dreams per night, and some may have up to seven;[4] however, most dreams are immediately or quickly forgotten.[5] Dreams tend to last longer as the night progresses. During a full eight-hour night sleep, most dreams occur in the typical two hours of REM.[6]

In modern times, dreams have been seen as a connection to the unconscious mind. They range from normal and ordinary to overly surreal and bizarre. Dreams can have varying natures, such as being frightening, exciting, magical, melancholic, adventurous, or sexual. The events in dreams are generally outside the control of the dreamer, with the exception of lucid dreaming, where the dreamer is self-aware.[7] Dreams can at times make a creative thought occur to the person or give a sense of inspiration.[8]

Opinions about the meaning of dreams have varied and shifted through time and culture. Most people today appear to endorse the (Freudian) theory of dreams – that dreams reveal insight into hidden desires and emotions. Other prominent theories include those suggesting that dreams assist in memory formation, problem solving, or simply are a product of random brain activation.[9] The earliest recorded dreams were acquired from materials dating back approximately 5000 years, in Mesopotamia, where they were documented on clay tablets. In the Greek and Roman periods, the people believed that dreams were direct messages from one and/or multiple deities, from deceased persons, and that they predicted the future. Some cultures practiced dream incubation with the intention of cultivating dreams that are of prophecy.[10]

Sigmund Freud, who developed the discipline of psychoanalysis, wrote extensively about dream theories and their interpretations in the early 1900s.[11] He explained dreams as manifestations of our deepest desires and anxieties, often relating to repressed childhood memories or obsessions. Furthermore, he believed that virtually every dream topic, regardless of its content, represented the release of sexual tension. [12] In The Interpretation of Dreams (1899), Freud developed a psychological technique to interpret dreams and devised a series of guidelines to understand the symbols and motifs that appear in our dreams.

On March 29, 2016   /   Let's Talk About  

How Long Do Dreams Last? Research, Explanations, and More

Artists, authors, philosophers, and scientists have long been fascinated with dreams. Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote an entire treatise on dreams, and William Shakespeare mused about dreaming in the tragedy “Hamlet.”

We still talk a lot about dreams today. We often muse about what they could mean. And we know that almost all people do dream, regardless of whether (or how well) they remember those dreams when they wake up.

But why do we dream? The short answer is scientists don’t really know for certain.

Regardless of why we dream, it’s interesting to take a closer look at dreams and how long they may last.

It’s hard to say how long an individual dream may last. But experts can provide estimates about how long you may spend dreaming.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average person dreams four to six times per night. You might spend as much as 2 hours in dreamland over the course of a night’s sleep, reports the National Institutes of Health.

Most of the dreaming seems to occur during rapid eye movement, or REM sleep. REM sleep is one of the two basic categories of sleep that your body experiences, with the other being non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

And while you can dream during NREM sleep, your dreams are more likely to be the most vivid during REM sleep.

REM sleep cycles tend to occur about every 1.5 to 2 hours. Your body will first enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. But you might only remain in that first cycle of REM sleep for 5 minutes or so.

Later, when you cycle back through NREM sleep into REM sleep again, you may remain in REM sleep for a longer period of time.

You might spend a half-hour in a cycle of REM sleep as the night wears on. If you sleep for about 8 hours, you might spend approximately one-quarter of that time in REM sleep.

Can you remember having a nightmare? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that somewhere between 50 and 85 percent of adults say they’ve had a nightmare.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer about how long a typical nightmare lasts. But experts note that nightmares do tend to happen in later cycles of REM sleep, often in the last third of the night.

Women are more likely than men to report that they’ve had nightmares. There are numerous potential causes, including stress and anxiety or certain medications.

And while anyone can have an occasional heart-pounding nightmare, some people experience regular episodes of nightmare-filled sleep.

Some of these nightmares can be attributed to PTSD, while others may not seem to have a readily identifiable cause.

Nightmare disorders are relatively rare: According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 4 percent of adults have a nightmare disorder.

But research suggests as many as 71 percent of people who’ve experienced trauma have regular nightmares.

There are treatment options available to help people with nightmare disorder, including image rehearsal therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

So, if you think you may be affected, talk to your doctor.

It’s almost impossible to determine how many dreams you have in a typical night.

To complicate things, you may have dreams but wake up and have no memory of them.

Some older research suggests there’s a correlation between the time you spend in REM sleep and the time you spend dreaming.

Dreams seem to be irresistible to researchers, who continue to explore the science behind them. Here are some other interesting facts about dreams and dreaming:

  • Kids dream in NREM sleep. Children under 10 years old dream much more often in the NREM stage of sleep than in the REM stage of sleep. In fact, the REM stage only accounts for about 20 percent of their dream time.
  • Your body is basically paralyzed while you’re dreaming. During REM sleep, your eyes will flutter or move quickly, but your major muscle groups will become temporarily paralyzed. The cause of the paralysis has been intensely debated and investigated, but some research in rats suggests neurotransmitters inhibit certain motor neurons during REM sleep, causing the paralysis.
  • Some people seem to act out dreams in their sleep. That’s because they experience REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). It can cause you to act out your dreams while you’re sleeping.
  • Your brain may choose what to forget while you dream. A 2019 study explained that neurons producing melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) seemed to impair the memory-making function in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus during REM sleep.
  • Medications can affect your dreams. For example, beta-blockers lower your blood pressure, but they might also amp up the intensity of your dreams.
  • Some people dream in black and white. Age may be a factor. Older people who watched more black-and-white television seemed to dream more often in gray scale than younger people who grew up with full-color media, according to one 2008 study.

When it comes to dreams, everyone is different. Maybe you rarely, if ever, recall any of your dreams. Or maybe you may frequently wake up with a vivid recollection ringing in your head.

But regardless of whether you remember your dreams or not, you do dream at various points in the night, if you sleep long enough.

It’s just your brain at work in a nightly process with some still-to-be-determined goal.

If you start to experience nightmares on a recurring basis, though, contact your doctor. Your nightmares could be the result of an underlying medical condition that can be addressed.

Sleep duration, disturbance, lack of sleep


Sleep disorders

Sleep is essential for a person just like physical activity and a balanced diet.

  • Sound sleep is the key to health, and this is not a hackneyed expression!
  • Sleep is as essential to a person as physical activity and a balanced diet.
  • Sleep provides rest for the body, and also contributes to the processing and storage of information. nine0014
  • Sleep facilitates the consolidation of the studied material, implements subconscious models of expected events.
  • Sleep is an adaptation of the body to changes in light, to day-night changes.
  • Sleep restores immunity by activating T-lymphocytes that fight colds and viral diseases.

Required sleep duration

The average sleep duration of a person usually depends on numerous factors, ranging from age, gender, lifestyle, nutrition and degree of fatigue, to external factors (general noise level, location, etc. ). The duration of sleep in newborns, adults and the elderly is 12-16, 6-8 and 4-6 hours per day, respectively. nine0003

In spring and summer, with a sedentary lifestyle, with a limited amount of carbohydrates in food intake, as well as when living outside the city, the normal duration of sleep can be only 5-6 hours, and with sudden loud sounds (or during loud music) and bright lighting, it is possible even a complete lack of sleep.

Sleep duration less than 5 hours (hyposomnia) or disturbance of the physiological structure are considered risk factors for insomnia.

Sleep duration in case of sleep disorders

With sleep disturbances, its duration can range from a few seconds to several days. There are times when it takes an adult 12 hours to sleep or recover from hard work and sleepless nights.

Sleep duration less than 5 hours (hyposomnia) or violation of the physiological structure are considered risk factors for insomnia.

What happens when there is no sleep

Sleep deprivation is a very difficult ordeal. Within a few days, a person's consciousness loses clarity, he experiences an irresistible desire to fall asleep, periodically "falls" into a borderline state with confused consciousness. This method of psychological pressure is used during interrogations, and is considered as sophisticated torture. nine0003

Sleep deprivation is a very difficult ordeal

How to sleep well

Using these simple rules, you can wake up in a cheerful mood and full of energy.

What to do

Learn to fall asleep and wake up at the same time - this will significantly improve the quality of sleep, as well as help you fall asleep and wake up faster and easier in the morning.

Approach this issue with all seriousness! nine0003

  • Think about how you sleep. What should you do to get better sleep? Remember, the body needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep to fully recover;
  • Spend the evening hours, especially before going to bed, in natural light. Natural light allows the body to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for falling asleep and waking up;
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment in your bedroom. The bedroom should be well ventilated, the temperature in the room should not exceed 20 degrees. nine0014

What not to do

Avoid taking caffeine in the evening. Don't drink tea, coffee, sodas, or even chocolate before bed. Don't smoke or drink alcohol before bed. Although alcohol will help you relax and fall asleep, at the same time, under its influence, the body is not able to fully recover, while the quality of sleep deteriorates.

Don't watch TV in bed. For the same reason, do not read before going to bed in bed, do not eat or work in bed. Your body should only associate your bed with sleep! nine0003

Try not to sleep during the daytime. Daytime naps can reduce the body's need for nighttime sleep and thus negatively affect the quality of nighttime sleep and well-being.

If you have already used our advice, but they did not help you, you still wake up feeling tired and tired, this means that you should contact a sleep disorder specialist - a somnologist. Your problems may be more serious, such as sleep apnea. nine0046

Healthy sleep: how many hours you need to sleep and why sleep deprivation is dangerous

Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, heart problems and even depression. We tell how much time children and adults need to sleep and how to improve sleep.


Sleep is an essential part of a healthy life. Adults should regularly sleep 7 hours or more per night. Some, particularly young people and those with chronic illnesses, need even more – 9hours of sleep per day. Only a small number of people need to sleep less than 6 hours a day. This is due to genetic factors.

How much sleep is needed


If you sleep less than 7 hours a night, you increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, in particular:

  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure; nine0014
  • weight gain and obesity;
  • immune system disorders;
  • deterioration in mental health, depression.

Also, insufficient sleep can affect your ability to make decisions, increase the risk of accidents on the road, and lead to mistakes.


Your behavior during the day, especially before bed, affects the quality of your sleep. Even a few minor adjustments can make a big difference in some cases. nine0003

A few good habits will help you sleep better:

Observe sleep patterns

Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Even on weekends.

Create a soothing atmosphere

A quiet, dark, peaceful environment and a comfortable, cool bedroom temperature will promote sleep. Do not turn on bright lights in the evening.

Remove accessories

Remove electronic devices, in particular TVs, computers, smartphones, from the bedroom, or at least turn them off 30 minutes before bedtime. nine0003

Watch your diet

Avoid caffeine (within 6 hours before bed), alcohol (within 4 hours before bed), and large meals before bed.

Learn more