Dreams: What Stage of Sleep do they Occur?

Last Updated: NOV 27, 2022

Dreams are one of the most fascinating aspects of sleep. They can be bizarre, wonderful, or even terrifying. But have you ever wondered what stage of sleep dreams occur? And how do we know when we're dreaming? Read on to find out!

Girl dreaming of being on a swing in REM stage of sleep

When Do Dreams Occur?

Dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is a stage of sleep characterised by increased brain activity and eye movement. It's called "rapid eye movement" because our eyes move rapidly back and forth during this stage. Scientists believe that dreams occur during REM sleep because this is the stage when our brains are most active.

REM sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It helps our brains process information and form new memories. It also helps to regulate our moods and emotions. For these reasons, it's important to get a good night's sleep so that we can experience REM sleep.

Most people dream four to six times per night. Dreams usually last between 5 and 20 minutes. However, it is possible to dream for longer periods of time. Some people report dreaming for hours at a time.

What are the Stages of Sleep?

Sleep happens in five distinct stages: Non-REM Sleep (1, 2, 3, 4) and REM sleep.

Stage 1: This is the lightest stage of sleep. It's a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep

Stage 2: Brain waves slow down and become more regular in this stage. Body temperature starts to drop as well

Stage 3: Brain waves become even slower as muscles relax and body temperature continues to decrease

Stage 4: This is the deepest stage of non-REM sleep. It's characterised by slower, delta brain waves.

REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement): During this stage, breathing and heart rate increase, and the eyes move rapidly from side to side. Dreams occur during this sleep, the deepest stage of sleep. During this stage, our brains are more active and our bodies become relaxed.

It's important for us to get enough REM sleep so that we can experience vivid dreaming. With proper sleep hygiene and regular bedtime routines, you can make the most of your dream time.

How Do We Know When We Dream? 

We can thank French neurologist Henri Bergson for helping us understand when we dream. In 1913, Bergson published a paper titled "Dreams and the Explanation of Dreams," in which he proposed that dreams occur during the REM stage of sleep. His theory was based on observations of his own dreams and those of his patients. 

Bergson's theory was later confirmed by other scientists who conducted experiments on sleeping subjects. In one such experiment, conducted in 1953, researchers found that when they woke subjects up during the REM stage of sleep, the subjects reported having dreamt. The researchers concluded that dreams must occur during REM sleep. 

Why Do We Dream?

There are many theories about why we dream, but scientists still don't fully understand the purpose of dreams. Some believe that dreams serve to process our emotions and help us make sense of our lives. Others believe that dreams are simply a product of an active brain during REM sleep.

What Do Dreams Mean? 

Now that we know when we dream, you might be wondering what our dreams actually mean. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed that dreams are a window into our subconscious mind. He believed that our dreams reveal our deepest desires, fears, and anxieties. 

While Freud's theory is certainly interesting, it has been largely discredited by modern science. These days, most scientists believe that dreams don't necessarily have any specific meaning. Instead, they believe that dreams are simply a reflection of our waking thoughts and experiences. In other words, if you spend your day thinking about whales, you're likely to dream about whales that night. 

Are There Any Sleep Experts in Australia Who Can Help Me Understand My Dreams? 

Yes! There are plenty of sleep experts in Australia who would be more than happy to help you understand your dreams.

So there you have it! Dreams occur during REM sleep, which is a stage of sleep characterised by increased brain activity and rapid eye movement. Whatever the reason, dreams are definitely an intriguing part of sleep and we are going to continue our research to find out more about them.