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Tell someone you don't dream at night, and you'll often get the reponse, "Oh, didn't you know we dream every night? It's just that we forget our dreams". This is usually said as if it's a scientific fact. But it seems like it would be almost impossible to actually test this scientifically.

What scientific support, if any, is there for this idea?

  • Please use the comments to improve the question, not to repeat the claim or attempt an answer. – Sklivvz May 17 '16 at 10:29
  • show us a source for the claim. – matt_black May 18 '16 at 8:51
  • @matt_black: I think Oddthinking's answer qualifies. – sumelic May 18 '16 at 22:36
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Yes, we (adults) dream more than once every night.

The University of Californa has a Dream Research team.

Their FAQ explains:

How often do we dream, and when?

Most people over the age of 10 dream at least 4 to 6 times per night during a stage of sleep called REM (for Rapid Eye Movements, a distinguishing characteristic of this stage of sleep). During REM periods our brains become as active as they are during waking, although not all parts of the brain are reactivated (the parts of the brain that are reactivated in REM are discussed in Chapter 1 of Domhoff's The Scientific Study of Dreams (2003)). REM periods vary in length from 5 to 10 minutes for the first REM period of the night to as long as 30-34 minutes later in the night. It thus seems likely that dreams can be a half hour or more in length.

There is also evidence that we can dream in non-REM sleep in the hour or two before waking up, when the brain has become more activated than it was earlier in the night. That's why we said that we dream "at least" 4 to 6 times per night.

They go on to qualify that there are also dreams while awake, REM periods without dreams, and evidence that children under 10 dream less frequently.

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You can measure the brain's activity using electroencephalography (EEG). During sleep, our brain switches around several stages. One of them, called Rapid Eye Movement stage, or REM, is the one during which we dream. The sequence repeats itself several times during our sleep, so we have a dream every time our brain reaches the REM period. 1

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    Dreams occur during REM phases. This does not imply that REM phases always contain dreams. – Jan Doggen May 17 '16 at 11:29
  • Dreams also occur during non-REM phases. – Oddthinking May 17 '16 at 13:25

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