For something we do every night, dreaming is less understood than string theory, flightless birds, and man nipples combined—which makes what science does know even cooler. Here are nine super-trippy facts about dreams, including when you have them and why they are floating through your head. Prepare to have your mind blown.
1.You Dream a Lot
The average person has more than 100,000 dreams in a lifetime—that breaks down to a couple dozen per night. No, seriously. You just remember very few of them. Most people remember one or two a night, but some people never remember a single dream and others remember up to 15 per night, says sleep specialist Isabelle Arnulf, Ph.D., M.D., a professor of neurology at Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie in Paris. Why so few? Science isn’t exactly sure, but it is known that during sleep, the brain slacks on monitoring your thoughts, which might have something to do with it, she says.
2.Dreams Can Help You Learn
Up to 86 percent of what happens in your dreams has its roots in that day’s events—be they mundane or life-altering, says Arnulf. So if you happen to sit through a lecture or course, that night’s dreams could give you the opportunity to study up. In fact, in one Harvard study, when researchers had people try out a 3D maze and then give it another go after either napping or staying awake for 90 minutes, the dream-recalling nappers saw the biggest improvements.
3.Your Cycle Can Screw with Your Dreams
One study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that women have more sex dreams during ovulation. You can probably blame your amped-up urge to procreate for that one.
4.Nightmares Can Be Good Omens
Are you a worrywart in your sleep? That might be a good thing. In Arnulf’s newest study, published in Consciousness and Cognition, she found that students who dreamed of failure the night before a big exam actually performed better. If you’re stressed and working hard to prepare for a big exam, interview, or presentation, your dreams are going to reflect that—but Arnulf’s team believes the nightmare itself may also carry a cognitive benefit.
5.You Can Dream Even In Light Sleep
You've probably heard that you only dream in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Researchers now know that’s not so. Dreams occur all sleep long, she says. The contents of your dreams, however, do change with your sleep stage. They are more emotional, visual, complex, and aggressive in REM sleep (which occurs most frequently later into the night) than the boring, "did I seriously just dream about plucking my eyebrows?" dreams that occur in the lighter stages of sleep.
6.Women Have Wet Dreams, Too
Truth: Men don't have a monopoly on everything sex-related. In fact, in both sexes, about four percent of sex dreams result in full-blown orgasms, according to research from the University of Montreal.
7.We Remember the Most Out-There Dreams
You might think you have really wacked-out dreams, but the truth of the matter is, those are probably just the ones you remember. “The insertion of never or rarely experienced events, such as flying and being naked in public, are experienced by almost everybody," says Arnulf. "They're more vividly remembered, although they represent less than one percent of total dreams."
8.Waking Up Helps You Remember Dreams
The more often you wake up during the night, the more likely you are to remember your dreams, says Arnulf. Ever heard someone say that eating a big meal before bed makes you dream more? It actually just makes you wake up more.
9.Dreams Can Be Epically Long
While an entire dream can just be seconds long, it can also approach the one-hour mark, including long scenarios and various scenes. Researchers call it "epic dreaming."