Dreams. Mysterious, bewildering, eye-opening and sometimes a nightmarish living hell: dreams are all that and much more. Here are 20 amazing facts about dreams that you might have never heard about.
Fact #1: You can’t read while dreaming, or tell the time
If you are unsure whether you are dreaming or not, try reading something. The vast majority of people are incapable of reading in their dreams. The same goes for clocks: each time you look at a clock it will tell a different time and the hands on the clock won’t appear to be moving as reported by lucid dreamers.
Fact #2: Lucid dreaming
There is a whole subculture of people practicing what is called lucid or conscious dreaming. Using various techniques, these people have supposedly learned to assume control of their dreams and do amazing things like flying, passing through walls, and traveling to different dimensions or even back in time.
Fact #3: Inventions inspired by dreams
Dreams are responsible for many of the greatest inventions of mankind. A few examples include:
- The idea for Google -Larry Page
- Alternating current generator -Tesla
- DNA’s double helix spiral form -James Watson
- The sewing machine -Elias Howe
- Periodic table -Dimitri Mendeleyev
…and many, many more.
Fact #4: Premonition dreams
There are some astounding cases where people actually dreamt about things which happened to them later, in the exact same ways they dreamed about. You could say they got a glimpse of the future, or it might have just been coincidence. The fact remains that this is some seriously interesting and bizarre phenomena. Some of the most famous premonition dreams include:
- Abraham Lincoln dreamt of His Assassination
- Many of the victims of 9/11 had dreams warning them about the catastrophe
- Mark Twain’s dream of his brother’s demise
- 19 verified precognitive dreams about the Titanic catastrophe
Fact #5: Sleep paralysis
Hell is real and it is called sleep paralysis. It’s the stuff of true nightmares. I’ve been a sleep paralysis sufferer as a kid and I can attest to how truly horrible it is. Two characteristics of sleep paralysis are the inability to move (hence paralysis) and a sense of an extremely evil presence in the room with you. It doesn’t feel like a dream, but 100% real. Studies show that during an attack, sleep paralysis sufferers show an overwhelming amygdala activity. The amygdala is responsible for the “fight or flight” instinct and the emotions of fear, terror and anxiety. Enough said!
Fact #6: REM sleep disorder
In the state of REM (rapid-eye-movement) stage of your sleep your body is normally paralyzed. In rare cases, however, people act out their dreams. These have resulted in broken arms, legs, broken furniture, and in at least one reported case, a house burnt down.
Fact #7: Sexual dreams
The very scientifically-named “nocturnal penile tumescence” is a very well documented phenomena. In laymen’s term it simply means that you get a stiffy while you sleep. Actually, studies indicate that men get up to 20 erections per dream.
Fact #8: Unbelievable Sleepwalkers
Sleepwalking is a very rare and potentially dangerous sleep disorder. It is an extreme form of REM sleep disorder, and these people don’t just act out their dreams, but go on real adventures at night.
Lee Hadwin is a nurse by profession, but in his dreams he is an artist. Literally. He “sleepdraws” gorgeous portraits, of which he has no recollection afterwards. Strange sleepwalking “adventures” include:
- A woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking
- A man who drove 22 miles and killed his cousin while sleepwalking (how is this even possible?)
- A sleepwalker who walked out of the window from the third floor, and barely survived
Fact #9: Dream drug
There are actually people who like dreaming and dreams so much that they never want to wake up. They want to continue on dreaming even during the day, so they take an illegal and extremely potent hallucinogenic drug called Dimethyltryptamine. It is actually only an isolated and synthetic form of the chemical our brains produce naturally during dreaming.
Fact #10 Dream-catcher
The dream-catcher is one of the most well-known Native American symbols. It is a loose web or webs woven around a hoop and decorated with sacred objects meant to protect against nightmares.
Fact #11: Increased brain activity
You would associate sleeping with peace and quiet, but actually our brains are more active during sleep than during the day.
Fact #12: Creativity and dreams
As we mentioned before, dreams are responsible for inventions, great artworks and are generally just incredibly interesting. They are also “recharging” our creativity. In rare cases of REM disorder, people actually don’t dream at all. These people suffer from significantly decreased creativity and perform badly at tasks requiring creative problem solving.
Fact #13: Pets dream too
Our animal companions dream as well. Watch a dog or a cat sleep and you can see that they are moving their paws and making noises like they were chasing something. Go get ’em Buddy!
Fact #14: You always dream—you just don’t remember it
Many people claim that they don’t dream at all, but that’s not true: we all dream, but up to 60% of people don’t remember their dreams at all.
Fact #15: Blind people dream too
Blind people who were not born blind see images in their dreams but people who were born blind don’t see anything at all. They still dream, and their dreams are just as intense and interesting, but they involve the other senses beside sight.
Fact #16: In our dreams we only see faces that we already know
It is proven that in dreams we can only see faces that we have seen in real life before. So beware: that scary-looking old lady next to you on the bus might as well be in your next nightmare.
Fact #17: Dreams tend to be negative
Surprisingly, dreams are more often negative than positive. The three most widely reported emotions felt during dreaming are anger, sadness and fear.
Fact #18: Multiple dreams per night
You can have up to seven different dreams per night depending on how many REM cycles you have. We only dream during the REM period of sleep, and the average person dreams one to two hours every night.
Fact #19: Gender differences
Interestingly, 70% of all the characters in a man’s dream are other men, but women’s dream contain an equal amount of women and men. Also men’s dreams contain a lot more aggression. Both women and men dream about sexual themes equally often.
Fact #20: Not everyone dreams in color
As much as 12% of people only dream in black and white.
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Can you change your life in an instant? You watch an inspirational movie, read the best self-help book, come across a quote that reaches you deeply. Can these moments lead to lasting change? They lead to intense inspiration and motivation. However, the burst of inspiration is fleeting and the moment slips away.
You imagined shedding your old ways and lifting off into a new stratosphere of success while you were in the cloud of inspiration. You saw your best self emerge. The gravity from the beliefs, patterns of thought, and habits you built over years pulls you back to your base state. According to a University of Scranton study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are successful. You didn’t need a research study to arrive at that conclusion.
You’ve experienced it with your own resolutions to make drastic changes. You realized it when your friend’s resolution to work out every day lasted 2 weeks. The jury is in: enduring change doesn’t happen overnight. The movie montage of the protagonist flipping tires and running sprints in an abandoned warehouse after experiencing a life-changing epiphany isn’t realistic.
While motivation doesn’t persist, you can commit to change your life in an instant. You tell yourself you’re sick of your old ways; it’s time to take action. If you embrace the moment and commit to change, the spark from that decision produces lasting change. You can use the moment to build momentum and commit to consistent, determined action until you arrive at your dream destination. Use the fuel from motivation to propel you to develop systems that facilitate the daily work that leads to your goal.
You can ride the wave of inspiration by creating the habits, plans, and systems necessary for success. You can’t ride the wave all the way to your end goal though. As your motivation dips, your inner critic begins a continuous stream of limiting thoughts. Your inner voice says you’re not good enough. Your plan will never work. You should give up on your dreams.
On top of the inner critic getting louder, you make mistakes, stumble, and fail because you’re learning a new skill or process. You don’t know the next step to take to overcome the latest setback. This seems like an ideal time to shove the dream back in the closet and quit. That’s what most people do. They turn to the safe path they’re familiar with when the going gets tough. The path that everyone else takes. There is a way to navigate around these setbacks that cause most people to quit.
The road map guides you past the roadblocks towards your dream. The road map breaks down the larger goal into smaller mini-goals. Achieving mini-goals each week provides small wins that create momentumtowards the larger goal.
In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg writes that “Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.” You can develop your plan in a way that tilts the odds in your favor. Breaking down the goal into small pieces allows you to focus on the next step rather than being overwhelmed by the mountain ahead.
You’re in control of the road map. You can sequence your mini-goals so that each challenge is an appropriate level of difficulty. When you play a video game, level 1 is easy. It builds confidence and skills that will be needed in tougher levels. You don’t start the video game in level 7. If you did, you would lose 3 times in the first minute and turn the game off. Start your goals in level 1 to accumulate small wins.
Commit to Your Dream
It’s hard to change routines and behaviors. Trying to do too much at the beginning is the quickest route to giving up. Being overly ambitious early in the process results in frequent failures that lead to feelings of inadequacy. These feelings drive you to conclude that you’re not good enough to reach the goal. You head in a different direction towards a new goal.
Repeating this process over and over in your life creates limiting beliefs and massive friction towards taking action. Why set new goals if you’re just going to fail after a few weeks? Play the long game instead with your goals. When you’re committed to a goal, failures in the journey turn into opportunities to learn and improve. Instead of quitting, you ask what can I learn from this failure? What will I do differently next time?
Commit to your dream regardless of the amount of time it takes to achieve it or the obstacles that arise along the way. If your commitment level is low, you’ll be pushed around by circumstances. On the other hand, if you MUST realize your dreams, you’ll find a way past the obstacles.
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” – Napoleon Hill
Habits for Success
Once you determine the course of action, block out specific time on your calendar to do the work. It’s ideal for the blocks of time to be the same each week. Working on the goal at the same time each day helps you stick with the habit for the long run. Consider working on life-changing goals first thing in the morning. InWillpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Baumeister and Tierney write that “You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.”
You have a full tank of willpower in the morning. The world hasn’t kicked into high gear yet with e-mails, phone calls, and texts screaming for your attention. Creating a winnable plan and setting aside time to do the daily work paves the way towards success. To strengthen your game plan, build in weekly monitoring to assess your progress and identify your biggest pain points. From there, you can strategically make adjustments for the next week.
If you miss the mark on the min-goal of the week, you can scale back the actions for the next week. Adding accountability provides another layer of protection to your game plan. Asking a friend to check in with you once a week provides more motivation to follow-through on your action steps. The last step in the plan is a large dose of perseverance.
When you don’t feel like working on your goal, work on it. When fear, insecurity, and uncertainty strike, work on it. When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, work on it. No matter how you feel, work on the plan. Trust the process. Methodically overcome each obstacle that arises. Execute the plan. Take the next step. The process leads to massive gains. It’s that simple. It’s also that hard. It’s difficult to ignore external expectations and distractions. At any moment, you could do a thousand other things than what you need to do.
When we look at successful people, we see the rewards they reap in public. We see the spoils from their years of hard word. We don’t see the thousands of hours of work that they logged in private. We don’t see that they worked towards their uncertain dreams every day, no matter how they felt. Putting your head down and executing the plan you laid out is hard. However, it leads to disproportionate results and success over time.
“The will to persevere is often the difference between failure and success.” – David Sarnoff
Success isn’t a nebulous or mystical process. There’s a formula for success. It’s a repeatable process.
Develop a road map, implement habits that support your goal, conduct weekly check-ins to monitor your progress, and add accountability. Then, adjust, learn, and persist until you arrive at your destination.