Next: Dream interpretation and symbols Up: Introduction to the DreamFAQ Previous: What causes dreams
A. REM sleep periods, and therefore dreams, last typically in the range of 5 to 45 minutes (cf. section 6). Often, the subjective time spent in a dream is much longer. One possible explanation for this time-stretch effect is that dreams are combined from pieces (see preceding paragraph) that have their own different setting in time. You first dream of something that occurred a year ago, then - following - of something that occurred just recently, mix them up a bit and are left with the rememberance of a dream that lasted a year.
But experiments suggest that dreamed actions run in "real time" - what you do in your dream takes exactly this time to dream. With external influences like the radio running in the morning, you have both the real time in which you hear something and - sometimes - the feeling that it lasted considerably longer. Anyway, time is one of the perceptions that are heavily distorted in dreams.
[Some researchers in the 1970s asserted, based on EEG records in sleep laboratories, that a dream takes about as long to occur as it takes to explain in words. --RD]
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