How Long Do Dreams Actually Last? Are They In Real Time?


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Have you ever experienced waking up in the middle of the night with a pretty good dream?

You may end up sleeping again to continue it, but was shown a different one.

How about the time your dream was going on forever? Or when you woke up with a really bad one that you ended up shaking and crying your eyes out?

Other times, you just woke up without any memory of your dream.

There are also instances when you thought your dream lasted an hour when in truth it was only for a few minutes.

These things can truly happen when you’re in slumber, and dreams are a fascinating topic for so many researchers and scientists.

To know how long do dreams last, let’s take a few notes first on how we dream for you to understand how long do dreams last and how they are created.

How Do We Dream?

Dreams have always fascinated many people.

The Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, wrote an entire treaties on dreams, while William Shakespeare showed his fascination on dreams when he wrote Hamlet.

Scientists and researchers have longed tried to answer the questions behind dreams.

They say that your dreams are like mental exercises for your brain.

It happens during the rapid eye movement (REM) that makes up 20% of your sleep.

Before we begin dreaming, there are certain stages we have to go through.

  • First, we experience light dreaming where we can easily be awakened from our dream.
  • Second, our eyes stop moving which indicates we are going through the deeper phase of our dream.
  • Third, our brain waves starts to increase.
  • Fourth, our eyes starts to move rapidly and we call it the REM phase. During the REM phase, we are 100% asleep and our dreams started to form.

When we dream, we see a lot of things. These things are mostly collected from our recent events. Sometimes it is a reflection of our stored memories.

But, no one really knows why we dream.

According to, Psychology Today, we dream to “process intense emotions” or “facilitate consolidation of emotional memories.”

Some believe we dream to foresee daytime threats and ways to avoid these or it’s a reflection of our real life so that we can learn new lessons from it. Other believe dreams don’t exist for any reason at all, they just do.

How Long Do Dreams Last?

When you’re asleep, chances are you’ve dreamed waking up in the middle of the night not wanting to cut-off a really good dream or you experienced getting agitated because the dream was taking so long.

Scientists and researchers haven’t proven how long dreams exactly last.  But they can provide an estimate on how long you spend dreaming.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, an average person dreams four to six times per night, and may spend at least 2 hours dreaming.

Others have stated that since REM sleep can last up to 45 minutes, they believe dreams lasts up to this length. However, there is really no definite method to time these, so these can’t be sure.

So, if you think you spent the whole night you’re dreaming, its actually not true.

Dreams can last from a few seconds to 45 minutes to 2 hours. The majority of dreams last between 10-20 minutes.

We only dream a few minutes during our REM phase. Since we have four to six dreams per night, they may last for 15 minutes each.

For example, your first dream can be 10-12 minutes long while your second and third dream are 15-20 minutes long.

How Long Do Dreams Last for Introverts and Extroverts?

Based on scientists, the longetivity of your dream also depends on your personality.

  • If you’re an introvert, you’ll most probably dream longer.
  • If you’re an extrovert, you’ll imagine and dream less than an introvert.

What makes dreams difficult to measure is the time lag.

It may seem hours or days in your dream, but it may only be a minute in real life.

There isn’t really a short answer for dreams. Because dreams are so difficult to record that scientists and experts can’t say how dreams actually last. They can estimate, but it’s not as exact as it may be, unless a radical change occurs.

We can only assume that dreams can be from 45 minutes to 2 hours.

There are also instances when you dream at other stages of sleep. But these dreams tend to be less vivid. You often remember your dreams when in takes during REM sleep.

Your dreams will last longer as the night progresses.

So, during an eight hour sleep, your dreams will occur during the two hour REM phase.

How Long Do Dreams Last in Real Time?

William C. Dement, a pioneer dream and sleep researcher, conducted experiments on dreams and sleeping. He wanted to prove that dream time is similar to dream time.

He observed different subjects when they are asleep.

Since the eyes rapidly move under the eyelids during dreaming, Dement was able to monitor and record the length of their dreams. Afterwards, he wakes them up and asked the subjects to write down the content of their dream.

When he compared the number of words of each dream to the dream length, he found out that number of words in the subject’s writings matched strongly with REM time.

This suggests that the perceived dream time matches actual dream time.

To validate the results of the experiment, subjects with RBD, a disorder with symptoms of twitching and movements during sleep, and sleep talkers are subjected to the same experiments.

The results reported that the length of their dreams matched with the recorded timing of movement and sleep taking.

In another experiment, the external stimuli such as sounds, smells, and touch are used to determine if it is the same with the dream content. The results were the same as before.

Lastly, he had subjects observe again while they were sleeping and woke them up to ask if how long they perceive their dreams are.

83% of the time the subject’s perception was correct.

These experiments made Dement conclude that dream time is closely identical to real-life time.

How Long Do Nightmares Last?

Can you remember the time you had a nightmare? You woke up screaming, shaking and crying. It was difficult to close your eyes and sleep again after that horrible dream.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, they estimated that somewhere between 50 and 85 percent of adults experiences nightmares.

There aren’t any specific and accurate answers as to how long a typical nightmare lasts.

But what the experts do know is that nightmares occurs at the later cycle of your REM. This is during the last third of the night in your sleep.

It had also been reported that women tend to have nightmares than men. These can be due to stress, anxiety and medications. Nightmares are heart-pounding occasions during sleep but there are some people who experiences this in a daily basis.

These nightmares are attributed to PTSD,

Women are more likely than men to report that they’ve had nightmares. There are numerous potential causes, including stress and anxiety or certain medications.

And while anyone can have an occasional heart-pounding nightmare, some people experience regular episodes of nightmare-filled sleep.

Being chased in a nightmare

Some of these nightmares can be attributed to PTSD, while others may not seem to have a readily identifiable cause. There are treatments to help them find this.

How to Make Lucid Dreams Longer?

There is no proven and right way to make dreams longer, but lucid dreaming can help you feel more connected to your dreams.

Lucid dreams are just like regular dreams but you are aware you are dreaming and they last for 5-20 minutes longers.

  • For beginners, you can do lucid dreaming but it would end a second after.
  • For experienced persons, it can last from 5-20 minutes.

When you are lucid dreaming, you can control the dream. You can change the people, and the environment.

The key to achieving a longer lucid dream is to keep calm and engage your senses in the world.

These techniques are helpful to make your lucid dreams longer:

  • Spinning around

Spinning around reduces the likelihood of awakening from your dream.

Your brain is engaged in creating the vivid dream of spinning around hence, it will be hard to create a sensation of being asleep in your bed.

  • Looking at the ground or at your hand

When you look at your feet or hand, it’s a way of stabilizing you to the dream.

  • Rubbing your hands together

The sensation of rubbing your hands will help you stabilize you to the dream and contradict the sensation of not rubbing your hands at all.

The Nightlight 7.1 was an experiment to show how useful rubbing hands were to prolong lucid dreams. The subjects were instructed to rub their hands in their dream and repeat themselves that the next scene will be a dream.

The results showed that rubbing their hands were effective in prolonging the dream.

  • Demand clarity

You can ask yourself for “clarity”.

I know it’s a bit weird.

But you’re asking your subconscious to focus on the dream.

To keep you from continuing the dream.

When asking this, be sure to believe and want you are saying. Otherwise, you’ll end up awakening yourself.

  • Interact with the environment

The act of interacting with your environment will help you stay grounded and be aware of your dream.

You may try talking to a dream character or you can just walk around.

How to Wake Yourself from a Dream?

There are instances when you want to wake yourself from a nightmare or from a simple dream.

These are ways to wake yourself up from a dream you don’t want:

  • Call out for help

The act of calling up or yelling from your dream tells your brain that you need to wake up.

  • Blink your eyes

Rapidly blinking will tell your mind that it’s time to wake up. Although you have to be careful because this may result to sleep paralysis.

  • Sleep in your dream

When you realize you’re in a dream, try sleeping.

The best way to do this is to get on your knees with your face on the floor and then stretch your arms behind you.

Do Animals Also Dream?

According to the University of California, identifying the rapid eye movement of animals was as close as they can to predict if animals do dream or not.

According to Popular Science, all mammals and reptiles and some birds do experience REM sleep. So, it is most likely that they also dream.

Why You Forget Your Dreams?

There are tons of times we tell ourselves that we don’t dream.

But we do. We just tend to forget about them.

The reason for these are the following:

  • You simply did not concentrate on the dream while you were dreaming.

People who are interested and curious about dreams tend to remember theirs because they are aware of it and pay attention to it.

  • Our lack of memory of our dreams is due to the hormone norepinephrine. This hormone is associated with memory and it is usually turned off while we sleep.

How to Better Remember Your Dreams?

The key to remembering your dreams is to tell yourself that you want to remember it. You may keep a dream journal beside your bed, so when you wake up, you can easily write down your dream.

Write down everything that went in your dream to help you remember the details and to train your mind to remember it on the next sleep.


Dreams really depend on every person. There are times you will remember them while other times you do not.

By understanding how dreams work, you can be able to somehow control your dream.

Although, there is no specific and accurate results on how long dreams really do last. The important thing is to take necessary precautions and healthy lifestyle to get good and healthy sleep.