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A. Everybody dreams. All humans (indeed, all mammals) have REM sleep. Most dreams occur in REM sleep. (REM=Rapid Eye Movements - in this sleeping stage the eyeballs move around like when awake.) This has been demonstrated by awakening people from different stages of sleep and asking if they were dreaming. In 85 percent of awakenings from REM sleep, people report having been dreaming. Dreams are rarely reported following awakening from other types of sleep (collectively called non-REM sleep).
[That is not quite right. First, even back when story-like dreaming was equated with REM sleep, researchers found that "sleep mentation" (sleep thinking) occurs in non-REM sleep as well. Often it resembles fragments of ordinary thought. Second, about 5 years after this FAQ was put together, brain scanning experiments showed that dreaming is not equal to REM sleep; rather, dreaming can be stimulated by the "REM-onset" signal from the midbrain, the same way dreaming can be stimulated by pain, noises, and other unusual stimuli. Dreaming apparently occurs in the forebrain, where there is an area that is active 100% of the time during story-like dreams. By contrast, there is about an 85% correlation between REM sleep and story-like dreams (and an equally strong correlation between non-REM sleep and "ordinary fragements of thought" type dreams).
Another common observation which proves that dreaming is not equivalent to REM sleep is the fact that dreams can occur immediately after you go to sleep, whereas REM sleep usually occurs only after an hour or so. --RD]
REM sleep alternates with non-REM sleep in 90 minute cycles throughout the night. In a typical 8 hour night, you will spend about an hour and a half total time in REM sleep, broken up into four or five "REM periods" ranging in length from 5 to 45 minutes. Most dreams are forgotten. Some people never recall dreams while others recall five or more each night. You can improve your ability to recall dreams. Good dream recall is necessary for learning lucid dreaming. There are two basic things to do to get started with developing dream recall. Begin a dream journal, in which you write everything you remember of your dreams, even the slightest fragments. You will remember the most if you record dreams right after you awaken from them. Before falling asleep each night, remind yourself that you want to awaken from, remember and record your dreams.
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