How Long Do Dreams Last? (In Reality)

After waking from a dream, it can feel like you were in that dream world for an eternity. But how long were you actually dreaming, in reality? How long do dreams last?

The average dream lasts about 5 to 20 minutes. Some dreams only last a few seconds, while some could last up to an hour. We have about 3 to 5 dreams a night, and each dream lasts a different amount of time.

Dreams happen during the rapid eye movement or REM phase of the sleep cycle. The sleep cycle has five stages. In a 7.5 to 9 hour sleep, we go through the REM sleep cycle about 5 to 6 times.

The REM phase lasts longer as you go through the sleep cycle. You can have anywhere from 5 to 90 minutes of REM time per cycle. Within this period, dreams last can last just a few seconds or as long as an hour.

Read on to learn more about how long dreams last, lucid dreams, and some interesting facts about dreams.

How Long Do Dreams Last?

The average dream lasts about 5 to 20 minutes. Some dreams only last a few seconds, while some could last up to an hour. We have about 3 to 5 dreams a night, and each dream lasts a different amount of time.

To explain how long dreams last in reality, we’ll need to look at the sleep cycle. The sleep cycle has five stages.

Stage 1

This stage occurs just a few minutes after falling asleep. It usually lasts for 5 to 10 minutes. Moreover, it is considered light sleep, wherein your eye movement slows down, and your body starts to feel relaxed. And it doesn’t take much to wake you at this stage. Bright lights, sudden movements, and light noises can rouse you.

Stage 2

During this stage, your brain waves tend to slow down. It can be a little harder to wake you, but this is still considered light sleep. Loud sounds can rouse you from sleep, and you are going to feel less alert if you wake up during this stage.

Stage 3

Deep sleep starts in this stage, wherein your muscles begin to relax and go inactive. Your eyes also stop moving fast and stay still. It’s the most restful stage of sleep, and it will be harder for you to wake, as your body does not notice many stimuli anymore.

Stage 4

This stage is the restorative phase. Your brain is producing delta waves, and you are in a very deep sleep at this point. But your involuntary muscles are still at work, including your brain.

It’s during this time that your body rests, and muscles begin to repair. Your immune function is also being restored at this point, and you start building the energy you need after waking up.

Stage 5

This stage is referred to as rapid eye movement or REM. Stage 5 makes up about 20 to 25 percent of all of your sleep time. During this stage, you breathe faster, and your eyes move in all directions rapidly. Your heart rate also increases, along with your blood pressure. It is during REM that people dream.

As you sleep through the night, you will go through stages of sleep cycles multiple times. You will go through rapid eye movement or REM many times in the cycle. An average REM stage will be about an hour in length. The first and last round of REM sleep in the sleep cycle will be about 10 to 20 mins. You can have 5 to 6 sleep cycles per night, totaling 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep.

How long do dreams really last? Dreams usually occur during REM, and REM can be anywhere from 5 to 90 minutes in the sleep cycle. The average dream lasts about 5 to 20 minutes. Some dreams last just a few seconds, while some last up to an hour. We have about 3 to 5 dreams a night, and each dream lasts a different amount of time.

how long do dreams actually last

Why Do We Dream?

Little is known about dreams, and scientists have been studying and providing theories about dreams. These are the possible explanations of why we have dreams:

  • We need dreams for our mental and emotional health
  • Dreaming is a way of rendering our unconscious wishes, desires, and wants
  • It may be some form of release and processing of what happened during the day
  • Helps in memory tasks and processing emotions
  • It helps in developing cognitive skills
  • Dreaming may help cultivate creativity

One study explained that we dream to better store our experiences and learnings in our memories. Dreaming may be helping us sort out what memories to keep and what to discard.

Another study shows that dreams may help us cope with emotional traumas that happen to us. Our dreams may help us cope with anxieties and pressures in our daily life too.

There is a lot of ongoing research on dreams to find out their true function. Many researchers think that the answer to why we dream is a combination of all these theories, as all of them have actual merit.

What Is a Lucid Dream? How Long Do Lucid Dreams Last?

Lucid dreams are those that happen while you are aware that you are dreaming. You are aware that the pictures and images flashing in your brain aren’t real, but the dream feels real. Lucid dreams are rare. Additionally, lucid dreams are said to occur when you are in between REM sleep and being awake. Some people tend to have lucid dreams more often than others.

Moreover, some studies point out that having lucid dreams have benefits. Among these benefits include getting less anxious, becoming more creative, and developing better motor skills.

How long do lucid dreams last? Lucid dreams last the same amount of time as non-lucid dreams, which are typically about 5 to 20 minutes. However, some lucid dreams only last for a few seconds, while some might last up to an hour.

Dream Recall

Ninety-five percent of people will forget their dreams when they wake up. There have been theories of why this is the case, and one of them is that dreams would get mixed up with real event memories if you remember your dreams.

A person spends about 20 percent of his sleeping time having dreams. Dreams happen during REM sleep. Another theory is that people forget their dreams because parts of our body shut down or slow down during REM, including the part in our brain responsible for our memories. Sometimes, we do remember some of our dreams, and they are usually the ones we have just before waking up.

If you’re keen on remembering your dreams, here are some tips to make you recall your dreams:

1. Tell Yourself You’ll Remember

Before you sleep, make a mental note telling yourself that you want to remember your dream.

2. Do Not Use an Alarm

You’ll most likely forget your dreams when you wake up to stimuli that make you want to rush or hurry. Naturally, waking up gives you a better chance of remembering your dreams.

3. Write It Down

When you wake up and you remember just a fragment of your dream, write it down. You don’t need to remember the whole dream – just a person, an event, or anything from the dream. Write down whatever you remember, and then keep going back to what you wrote down during the day. It might help you remember the whole dream.

We’ve answered the questions: “How long do dreams last in real life?” and “How long do lucid dreams last?” Next, let’s look at some fascinating facts about dreams.

Fascinating Facts About Dreams

Dreams are stories created with images that we experience when we are asleep. There are times dreams are clear with a good narrative. But there are also times they totally make no sense. Sometimes, after waking, you may clearly remember a vivid dream but don’t remember it most times.

A person doesn’t have control of their dreams. Scientists and researchers have been perplexed about dreams. Moreover, many questions have remained unanswered about dreams–even in this day and age of advanced science. 

Researchers and scientists have learned the following facts, and they are all delightfully fascinating.

1. Everybody Has Dreams

Babies dream. Teenagers dream. Adults dream. Even if you never remember your dream, you do dream. Everyone does, no exceptions.

2. You Will Forget Your Dreams 95 Percent of the Time

More than 50 percent of your dream is forgotten upon waking, and after another 10 minutes, 90 to 95 percent is forgotten forever.

Even a dream that lasts up to 90 minutes can be forgotten easily upon waking. To help remember a dream, write down your thoughts right after you wake.

3. Blind People Dream

Those who are blind from birth also have dreams but involve their other senses. One study shows that blind people may experience visuals in their dreams too.

4. Animals Dream Too

Studies made on different animals strongly suggest that animals have dreams too. When animals are asleep, they show brain waves the same as humans who are sleeping and have dreams. Ever notice your dog whimpering or wagging its tail while asleep? That’s because it is probably dreaming.

how long do dreams really last

5. You Get Body Paralysis When You Dream

Rapid eye movement happens every time you sleep, as it is part of the sleep cycle. During REM, your voluntary muscles go into temporary paralysis. This temporary paralysis helps you not to act out or react to your dreams.

Sometimes, if you wake up during the REM stage, the paralysis carries over to your conscious state 5 to 10 minutes after waking up. It can be a scary experience for some people, but sleep experts say it is perfectly normal to experience sometimes.

6. Negative Emotions Are More Prevalent in Dreams

Anxieties often come up in our dreams. Studies have shown that the overall emotion conveyed in our dreams is negative. 

7. The Characters We See in Our Dreams Are People We Already Met

Your dreams do not make up new faces. We have seen thousands of faces, and we probably don’t recall all of them. But you have already seen in real life every face you see in your dream.

8. Men and Women Dream Different Things

Surprisingly, men usually dream about other men 70 percent of the time. Women dream of men and women equally. When dreaming of things, men tend to dream more about weapons and cars, while women tend to dream about clothing.

9. You Can Dream in Black and White

While we mostly dream in full color, we can also dream in black and white. Moreover, studies show that there are actually some people who exclusively dream in black and white.

10. You May Experience Dream Incorporation

There may be times that stimuli around you are incorporated into your dreams. For example, a thunderstorm happens when you are asleep. The sounds of the storm may make you dream that you are caught in a thunderstorm.

11. A Lot of the Same Dreams Happen to Different People

Dreams may actually be universal. Sometimes, dreams are manifestations of our fears and negative experiences. Many people have almost the same dreams of being attacked, chased, left alone, and other common fears.

Conclusion – How Long Do Dreams Actually Last?

How long do dreams last in reality? The average dream lasts about 5 to 20 minutes. Some dreams last only a few seconds, while some could last up to an hour. We have about 3 to 5 dreams a night, and each dream lasts a different amount of time.

Dreams usually happen in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. Each night, as we sleep, we go through a sleep cycle, which has five stages. On average, we get about 5 to 6 sleep cycles a night. Rapid eye movement is shorter in the earlier part of the sleep cycle and longer in the latter part.

The REM stage can be anywhere from 5 to 90 minutes. You can dream for the whole time you are in REM. Usually, each dream will be about 5 to 20 minutes long. However, some dreams can last a few seconds, while some can last up to an hour.

Upon waking, you will also forget your dreams ninety-five percent of the time. In fact, you can easily forget a really long dream, one that lasts an hour, when you wake up. If you really want to remember your dream, write down what it was like right after waking up.