5 Strange Facts About Dreams

Dreams are weird. Everyone knows that.

But the truth is that dreams are even weirder than most people realize. Although scientists still aren’t sure why people dream, they’ve discovered some interesting things in the process of trying to figure it out.

Here are 5 strange facts about dreams:

1. Whether you dream in color depends partly on what kind of TV you watched as a kid

Most people today report dreaming in color, but that hasn’t always been the case. For a good part of the twentieth century, researchers thought everyone naturally dreamed in black and white.

This discrepancy appears to arise from the way media influences our dreams. Today, the vast majority of people who grew up watching color TV report dreaming in color while those who watched black-and-white TV as kids still tend to live a significant portion of their dream life in a monochromatic world. A few people even report dreaming exclusively in black and white.

2. Being chased is the most common dream

Dreams are strange, but they aren’t always unique.

Some kinds of recurring dreams, like having teeth fall out or being naked in public, are very common. The most common of all appears to be dreaming about being chased.

One reason these dreams are so common is that pretty much any kind of stressful situation can trigger them. For example, a study of stock brokers’ dreams following a market crash found that reported stress was correlated with dreams about being chased and clients’ financial losses were correlated with dreams about falling.

3. Dreams may be a kind of learning

The jury’s still out on what the purpose of sleep is, but there is some evidence suggesting that one function of dreams is to help with learning.

A 2010 study showed that people can improve their performance on a maze by dreaming.

In the study, participants who thought about the maze while awake and participants who took a nap but didn’t dream about the maze didn’t show much progress. But participants who dreamed about the maze during an afternoon nap showed dramatic gains in their ability to work the maze.

More studies will have to be done to clarify the relationship between dreaming and learning, but this line of research has already given us something important: a ready-made excuse to take a nap at any time.

4. Suppressed thoughts pop back up in your dreams

As I wrote about last week, intentionally forcing yourself to forget about something is no easy task.

One way suppressed thoughts make themselves known is through dreams. The more you try not to think about something, the more likely that thing is to appear in your dreams.

Dream rebound is an example of ironic processing – the idea that trying not to think about something actually makes it harder not to think about it. (Also, I just lost The Game.)

5. Dreaming about failing an exam makes you more likely to pass it

If you dream about doing bad on a big exam you have coming up, not to worry!

A survey of students’ dreams the night before a med school entrance exam found that 60% of the students dreamed about the exam, with the overwhelming majority of the dreams being negative. At the same time, students who dreamed about the exam ended up actually scoring higher.

The cause-and-effect isn’t totally clear here. It could be that the students who dreamed more about the exam were more anxious about the exam, so they studied more in advance. It could also be that some students just studied more in advance, which made them more likely to dream about the exam. Or it could be dreaming about the exam actually made students more prepared, a possibility the authors of the study emphasize.

Whatever the reason, one thing’s for sure: dreaming about something bad happening in an impending stressful situation isn’t necessarily an omen that something bad really will happen – it could even be a sign that something good is in the works!

D’you have any of these dreams? D’you have anything about dreams you want me to research for future posts? Comment below!

Image: FreeImages.com/Joachim Aagaard Nielsen


  1. sue on March 15, 2016 at 7:10 am

    I had a dream recently that money was missing from my elderly mothers purse and I looked into this and this was correct. I have been living with her for some time prior to this information that was given to me. sue.

    • Neil Petersen on March 15, 2016 at 7:30 am

      Sometimes we can figure stuff out in our dreams that we don’t know when we’re awake. Power of the subconscious, or something like that!

      • Lauren Nagel on March 17, 2016 at 1:41 pm

        I have dreamt things that i couldn’t possibly have known or even considered prior to having a dream about it and then finding out after that it was true.

  2. Tess on March 17, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    I didnt watch TV as a child and i have always dreamed in color. Dreams have always been looked at as magical things. Lesson to be learned and truths to be told…sometimes science should just leave things alone

  3. Alex on March 17, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    “are dreams”? editing is our friend

  4. Susun on March 17, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I have always dreamed in color, even as a child. Even before we got our first black and white TV when I was 12 yo. I continued to dream in color after we got it. I did a lot of lucid dreaming. I don’t remember ever having a dream in black and white, which simply means that I don’t remember having a dream in black and white. I have had the experience of playing video games in my dreams and other repetitious activities I would be involved in. My personal, uneducated opinion is that dreams are processing the day’s intake. This goes here; that goes there; and let’s fudge this one. Whatever, I had a rich dream life which I’ve lost to aging, etc. I miss it.

    • Neil Petersen on March 17, 2016 at 7:58 pm

      You raise an interesting point, which is that it’s also possible people who grew up watching black-and-white TV are also more likely to REMEMBER their black-and-white dreams. There’s a good amount of science that’s been done to back up your take on dreams as “processing.” I think I have a fairly rich dream life, but it’s a toss up whether or not that’s a good thing on a given night! 😉

  5. Donna Rockwell on March 17, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I have had many dreams that dealt with terrible emotional problems…I figured my big one out..sounds very plausible.

    But recently I have been awaken sometimes in eary am or close to getting up that the doorbell rang.

    I was told it represents the passage of time and the bell a reminder I better get something done…times running out.

    • Neil Petersen on March 18, 2016 at 8:01 am

      I once had a dream about my doorbell ringing that jolted me awake. In my case, though, the interpretation was more literal: I had just gone through a period where I’d been woken up early by my actual doorbell ringing several times.

  6. Elaine on March 18, 2016 at 2:40 am

    I had a nightmare rather than a dream quite some time ago that was the scariest one I had ever had. I remember real terror and menace while it was happening. When I eventually woke up, I was sweating and my heart was racing. It was so real and so terrifying. I can still remember that one single dream all this time later very vividly. No other dream or nightmare stayed with me like that one. Do not know what the means if anything

    • Neil Petersen on March 18, 2016 at 8:03 am

      I’ve had a handful of exceptionally vivid dreams that have stayed with me. They have tended to be during times when I’ve been not sleeping enough or sleeping on a weird schedule, so I think of them as my brain going into “overdrive” trying to catch up on sleep.

    • Wendy on November 5, 2018 at 2:04 am

      I have heard that sometimes you so deeply asleep that you go into a form of coma. Terrible nightmares are your brain’s way of waking you up.

  7. Kevin on March 18, 2016 at 3:55 am

    I dream frequently. I do think about fantasies before drifting off to sleep and 90% of my dreams are positive. I rarely have nightmares. Sometimes it is like I am in another dimension. If only I could record the dreams I would be a top selling SciFi author.

    • Neil Petersen on March 18, 2016 at 8:04 am

      90% sounds like an excellent success rate. I’ll have to give the positive fantasies thing a shot!

      • No on September 7, 2019 at 9:42 am

        The dreams would probably be too short for a movie lmao

  8. Tara on March 28, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    I’ve had a lot of night terrors throughout my life, but it’s been a very traumatic life. For decades I would dream that I was being chased, but I could fly. I was very good at flying, actually, but always afraid that I would fly too high, and not be able to return to the ground. There was always a wind that gave me the lift I needed to fly. I also dreamed many times that I was trying to dial a phone, but it was on an old-fashioned phone where you stuck your finger in the hole where the numbers are, but the holes and numbers were not lined up at all, and there was no way to figure out how to dial the number I needed. Very frustrating! Lastly, I was attempting to yell for help, but the only thing that came out of my mouth were the letter, HELP, no sound. This was a recurring dream, for decades, but one night I actually yelled “Help” out loud, and never again had the dream.

    • Neil Petersen on March 29, 2016 at 6:56 am

      I’ve had the one about flying but not being able to get back to the ground! I’m also afraid of heights, which seems related — but getting a job where I had no choice but to work in high places helped with that.

  9. Debbie Cruse on January 13, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    I dreamed dreams such as this one. My sister died. I dreamed of her 7 days in a row. Each time she was at school and I couldn’t touch her .
    on the 7th Day she walked up to me and I could smell her and touch her. She hugged me and said she had to study before going through the gates of heaven and now she can. She could choose one person to visit and it was me.my niece her daughter had a dream that same night her
    Mom went to heaven


  10. A random person on June 5, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    I dreamed that an electric cable was stuck on my spine, and my back was constantly in pain in that dream. What does that mean

  11. Penney deckard on July 25, 2019 at 4:20 am

    I wanted to know more about the type of dream I had last night first of all my dreams are as real as if it’s living on earth. So I feel, touch, breath, see everything as I do awake. But only this one time have I ever felt such emotional, scared, hurt, afraid, an so much more with this dream. This young girl named guy they were at a train station an this girl was afraid of this man they were there after hrs an couldn’t get out until am when it was time for am there a pears a older lady the man ends up raping her then killing her the girl stood by lady’s bathroom as she saw this man do crazy terrible bad things to her. The girl left cuz she couldn’t watch anymore. The man came out of bathroom an told the girl he murder the lady. Then there came another lady this one was waiting to catch a train n thought the two were supposed to go with her. The young girl pretended as if she didn’t feel good an asked the lady for the key so so could unlock the door an go home the lady said yes. She gave her the key. As the girl was leaving the man soon follows her. When he got to the girl he told the girl he de gutted the lady! The girl scared saw a street with a couple waiting to cross the couple said something about the house across the street. How it was a known place that people never go to. The girl must of known the house cuz she ran inside the guy follows her. Soon the guy is fronted by a older lady who tells him he needs to go. That the people of the train station will find him he needs to leave the girl alone. . That was my dream all but the last part I left out. So in my dreams I never see faces, I normally know who it is or I guess assumed. But never see a clear face. Right as the lady told the man he needs to leave her alone the first time I’ve ever in my dreams had someone
    (( look into my eyes!!!! ))
    Her blue eyes stared right at me as if she saw me watching my dream. I woke up that second. Crying., hurt, scared, pain, so much more I felt everything so deep. N her eyes won’t leave my mind. I’m a person who is caring, loving, n wouldn’t hurt no one but I feel this girl as life it was real. So please even thou this might be a lil of odd dream. Please let me know what u think
    Thank you

  12. Just someone on July 27, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    I get lucid dreams like every night. I can just control my mind very well. But let’s say when i was 6 years old and i had a Lucid Dream i was thinking about something scary for no reason and then BOOM there was a Scary Monster who chased me and i didn’t know how to stop it.