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Sleep: we all do it, we all need it, and without it, we cannot thrive. Research shows that humans are the only mammals who deliberately hold off on sleeping, even when the body tells them to and that being awake for 16 hours straight actually decreases your performance to the same level as if you were intoxicated.
How long must you sleep to dream? In order to have a dream while sleeping, you will need to enter into the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. It is estimated that this takes around 90 minutes for the average person, but can vary depending on a variety of factors.
If you have ever thought about your own sleeping patterns, you might realize that you sometimes have dreams, while other times you don’t. Dreams are an interesting topic, with plenty of studies behind them to answer all of the questions that pop up about them.
In this article, we will be going over how long you must sleep to dream, along with a few more details on the topic. Keep reading to get all of the information about sleeping and dreams that you are seeking out.
How Long Must You Sleep To Dream?
When you are sleeping at night, you begin dreaming once you have entered into the REM phase of sleeping, or rapid eye movement.
The general rule of thumb is that it takes approximately 90 minutes to reach REM sleep, that is after going through three stages of non-REM sleep where your body adjusts in various ways.
There are a few things to note about this, though. Certain factors can affect your ability to initially fall asleep, which can inhibit your body’s time to reach REM sleep and your mind’s ability to dream.
Here are some of the factors that can affect your sleep (and dreams):
- Sleeping Environment
The first factor that affects sleep and dreams is age. Babies can experience REM sleep for up to 50 percent of their sleep, while adults only experience it for up to 20 percent on average.
Age is a major factor in your ability to dream because the more you age, the lighter you tend to sleep, making REM sleep harder to achieve.
It is also commonly suggested to turn off your lights, put down phones, and turn off televisions when you want to get good sleep. It is believed that major exposure to light inhibits the brain’s ability to differentiate between daytime or nighttime and therefore delays our ability to sleep at a good hour, which has been proven scientifically as well.
Many medications, prescribed or over the counter, have counteractive effects on sleep and dreaming and could affect the depth in which you experience sleep. If you never make it to REM sleep, you most likely won’t dream at all.
Finally, your sleep environment will affect how well you sleep and when you reach the REM dreaming stage.
Making yourself comfortable before you sleep is the best way to sleep well, but certain aspects including the temperature in the room or the presence of light and sound can make or break whether you do so quickly.
Can You Start Dreaming As Soon As You Fall Asleep?
So, now that you have gotten the answer to the burning question of how long it takes to dream after you fall asleep, you might be wondering if you can start dreaming as soon as you fall asleep.
Although most dreams do occur during REM sleep, you can also dream in non-REM sleep. Some people are able to fall asleep as soon as they close their eyes, but dreaming is another story.
Here are some instances where non REM dreaming may be possible:
- Polyphasic Sleep Patterns
While following a polyphasic sleep schedule, or sleeping for only a few hours several times throughout the day, can result in being able to fall asleep instantly.
In these cases, falling asleep quicker may influence when you reach REM sleep, therefore allowing for a more productive sleep, and a better chance at dreaming for a longer period of time.
People who suffer from Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep attacks, and sleep paralysis to name a few, may also be able to dream soon after falling asleep and they are also highly susceptible to vivid dreams and lucid dreams.
Though the ability to dream before reaching REM sleep is possible, dreams in those stages tend to be less intense and very quick. In general, dreaming occurs during REM sleep, should you reach that depth of sleep, and can last for a good duration of your rest.
There are also people who claim that they simply do not dream. Though that may seem like the case in general, it is highly unlikely that you can go a long period without dreaming.
Many people report never having dreams at all, but that does not necessarily mean they do not actually dream.
This could simply mean that they do not remember the dream, as we all often do not. In some cases, some people believe they are awake when they are indeed dreaming, which would point to vivid dreams. The average person has four to six dreams a night, but most people cannot remember 99 percent of them.
How Does The Dreaming Cycle Work?
After hearing the terms REM and non-REM sleep throughout the previous section, you might be curious about what they mean and how they contribute to the sleeping cycle overall.
To conclude this article, we will be going over the entire dreaming cycle and how it works. Take a look at the list down below to get the main idea, and keep reading for more details.
The Four Main Stages Of Sleep:
- Non-REM Stage 1
- Non-REM Stage 2
- Non-REM Stage 3
- REM Stage
There are four main stages of sleep: NREM 1, 2 & 3 and REM sleep, however the order in which you experience each stage is not chronological and can be random.
The general sequence is stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 2, REM, stage 2… and can cycle through any order of the stages throughout the night. Here’s a little more information on each sleep stage and how they affect dreaming.
Non-REM Stage 1 is a transitional period; your sleep is very light and it is easy to wake up. It can usually last between 5 to 10 minutes and is not always considered “sleep” by many people, though technically it is.
In this stage, you may even feel a sudden jolt in your body, or a hypnagogic (or hypnic) jerk, causing you to shake awake.
Though dreaming is highly unlikely in this stage, it is said that the hypnic jerks are proceeded by a flash of an image that is associated with the movement that appears quickly, giving off the illusion that you may have been dreaming.
However, in the case, the movement comes first, and then the image flashes before your eyes. As Very Well Health puts it, “the brain creates a story to account for the movement.”
During Non-REM Stage 2, you are still in a light sleep, however, your body begins to slow its processes down to get ready for deep sleep. Your heart rate will begin to slow and you will remain in this stage for about 20 minutes before moving into a more relaxed state.
Non-REM Stage 3 usually comes next. Believe it or not, this stage is where you experience the deepest sleep.
At this point, your muscles are relaxed, your blood pressure has dropped, and your breathing has slowed to its slowest point. Your brain emits delta waves, slow, long burst brain waves, and you are less responsive. People who sleepwalk tend to experience that in this stage of sleep.
In the final stage called REM, the brain is more active, your eyes move rapidly, and your body becomes even more relaxed.
The REM stage can be reached multiple times during the night as you go through the cycles, but the first can only last up to about 10 minutes and the last can last up to about an hour.
This is the point in which dreams are prevalent and suddenly many external influences, such as events that happened during the day, sounds, and even smells can become internalized and can manifest into a dream.
It is even said that depending on your mood or psychological state, your dreams may appear in black and white or brighter and more vibrant. It is possible to have more than one REM stage while you sleep, depending on how long you sleep, and because of that, you could dream for up to about 2 hours a night!
There is no real dictated time frame to dreaming and thanks to many internal and external factors, every individual experience with dreaming varies. It may take having complete control over those same factors for an individual to be able to dream in a consistent pattern, but time and research will tell!