Do you ever wake up from a dream and wonder how long it lasted? Dreams can feel like they went on forever, or they can be so brief that you question whether you dreamed at all.
So, how long do dreams last?
Turns out, the answer is both simple and complicated. Dreams generally last around 20 to 30 minutes, says Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D.
But it’s not that simple. Dreams can last anywhere from a few seconds to over an hour, she says. It all depends on the stage of sleep you’re in when you have a dream.
There is no sure way to find out how long a dream is.
But, for certain types, such as lucid dreams, you can get a certain feeling that these last around a 7-second time span.
It may be even shorter, for your psyche can influence just how short or long a dream would feel.
This is because these dreams give you a sense of awareness that you’re inside a dream.
And that awareness can help you both in figuring out not only how long a dream is.
Do Dreams Really Last only 7 Seconds?
It’s a common claim that dreams only last around 7 seconds.
But is there any evidence to support this claim?
Turns out, there isn’t much.
One study found that people tend to estimate the duration of their dreams much shorter than they actually are.
In the study, people estimated that their dreams lasted anywhere from 3 seconds to 20 minutes, with an average estimate of 5 minutes.
However, the actual average dream length was closer to 14 minutes.
So, it’s likely that people tend to underestimate the length of their dreams.
And in some cases, that short duration may depend on what your current sleep stage is.
- REM Sleep – rapid eye movement sleep, or the deep sleep stage where your brain is in a wakeful stage while your body is asleep.
- NREM Sleep – non-rapid eye movement sleep, or the stage where you are transitioning from being awake to asleep.
Originally, REM sleep was used to gauge dream length. But recent studies revealed that even NREM sleep has just as many dreams as the REM sleep stage.
It just so happens that REM sleep has more instances of vivid dreams.
Vivid dreams often happen during the REM sleep stage. Your brain may trigger messages from your psyches at this stage, which may result in a better awareness of dream length.
How Long Do Different Dreams Usually Last?
The perception of time in dreams may be determined by the dream type. The dream length may have a direct connection to the actual meaning of a dream.
So it is important to consider both the duration and the type in finding the meaning of dreams:
This type of dream often happens during the REM stage when your brain is highly active.
And because of high brain response and one’s sense of awareness, dream length can be felt at the extremes.
For some, lucid dreams can feel really quick. This is where the 7-second time span originates, with the quick but highly engaging sensation felt in these dreams.
Also, lucid dreams can feel like you’re in it for hours (or even days).
But because of how your brain triggers signals in this stage, you are actually experiencing this skewed awareness of time in just a few minutes.
These dreams often tell or predict a future event.
Detailed and often offers a sense of awareness like lucid dreams, this type can last anywhere from seconds to even an hour.
The time span, such as 7 seconds, may connect to how important a prediction is.
As such, sharp attention may be needed in spotting details during this short amount of time.
Déjà Vu Dreams
Perhaps one of the shortest dream types, a Déjà Vu dream often lasts in just mere seconds.
Some experts consider this type of a glitch, with your brain often triggering split perceptions of time and space. This then results in an unsettling feeling when you have this dream.
Another reason why this dream may be short is memory recall. Your psyche may be checking details from your memory.
And in doing so, you feel a sense of familiarity.
It may be short, but try to pay attention to what your psyche’s showing you. That familiar feeling may prove to be beneficial for you in your waking life.
These dreams can last anywhere from seconds to even hours. Depending on the context and dream images, your psyche may be using these nightmares to send an important message to you.
Dream duration also plays an important emphasis on attention. These scary dreams may use dream length to focus on a certain and important part of the message.
Pleasing dreams may either feel like forever or a jolt of positivity for a few precious seconds.
But whatever the case may be, how long a happy dream is may also symbolize how important it is.
And because of its positive nature, a long dream may signify big blessings coming your way.
A short but sweet dream may also be a sign of small miracles happening to you.
What Factors Will Affect the Length of a Dream?
Aside from pointing out REM and NREM sleep stages, dream length can also be determined with these factors:
You may be worried about work or relationship problems. Your mental health may be a trigger for your psyche to send a short but powerful dream.
Depending on your current sleep stage (REM or NREM), your brain activity may be adjusting time perception in your dreams.
Overthinking, regardless of its good or bad thoughts, may allow short, 7-second dreams to manifest.
Your inner persona may want to point out a certain period from your memories.
It may be happy or nostalgic, but the dream length will depend on how your psyche wants to emphasize the memory.
Just like your daily routine, your body clock (circadian rhythm) may also affect how long or short a dream is.
An irregular sleeping pattern may cause a quick dreamlike déjà vu.
But if you’re well-rested, you may experience longer dreams.
Exposure to Fast-Paced Media
Browsing through fast videos or posts on social media accounts may also influence the way you dream.
The fast-paced media found on these platforms may manifest as well as quick dream messages from your inner persona.
Being physically tired may let your brain trigger several dream images.
Because of the exhaustion stage, you get short and disjointed dreams.
How Scientists Calculate the Length of Dreams?
The main variables scientists use to measure dream duration are REM sleep and NREM sleep cycles.
Eye movement (even when closed) can help gauge if a person is dreaming.
Another method to calculate the length of dreams is through the use of magnetic resonance imaging. This method analyzes brain activity.
An increase in brain activity and comparing it to the dreamer’s actual experience (preferably through a dream journal) will help gauge dream length.
The opportunity to actually measure dream duration and combine it with a person’s memory of dream images can potentially result in better dream interpretations.
This is especially true for lucid dream records, which can compare perceived dream time versus time in waking life.
Does Our Brain Process Dreams Quicker Than Real Life Scenarios or a Movie Screen Sequence?
Yes, our brains may process these dreams more quickly than in real-life scenarios.
Your psyche may trigger a mix of emotions and perceptions to make you feel you’ve been dreaming something for hours.
But when measured in real life, the actual dream would just be in seconds or in minutes.
This proves that the psyche uses the brain as a powerful tool in sending messages. Amplifying or lessening time perception can stress the importance of a message hidden in a dream.
Dreams that last for just 7 seconds exist. This all boils down to internal and external factors:
Your psyche may be triggering brain signals and emotions for you to feel a dream that lasts only for a few seconds.
Reasons such as stress, outside media influence, overthinking, and even physical exhaustion can result in you having short dreams.
Regardless of the cause, these 7-second dreams prove that your inner psyche can change your perception of time while dreaming.
Doing so can be a sign of what you need to change in your waking life. It can also be a message of what you need to do to further develop yourself.