A dream is one of the most misunderstood phenomena of the human brain. Scientists have monitored people while they dream for decades, and still we don’t seem to be any closer to understanding how dreams manifest themselves the way they do. But let’s put that aside and examine another question: how do people who lack the senses of sight and sound experience dreams? To investigate, we’ve asked three fundamental questions. Check them out, and investigate with us below.
Number One: How Do Blind People Dream? Dreams occur during Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep, and they tend to incorporate all of our senses into a kind of fabricated scenario. However, people who go blind before the ages of five to seven tend not to have any visual components in their dreams. People who have distinct memories of being able to see, on the other hand, often have visual dreams, ranging anywhere from just flashes to complete recreations. The longer an individual has been blind, the fewer visual experiences he’ll have. Ironically, people who have been blind their entire life experience no eye movement during REM.
Number Two: How Do Deaf People Dream? Similarly to blind people, deaf people dream in a way that focuses on senses other than hearing. People who go deaf before the ages of five to seven are much less likely to experience an auditory component to their dreams than people who have more distinct memories of being able to hear. Their dreams are mostly visual.
Number Three: How Do People Who Are Both Blind And Deaf Dream? Finally, perhaps the most interesting question of the three is in regards to how people who are both blind and deaf dream. There are two case studies investigating this: Laura Bridgman and Helen Keller. Each of these women went both blind and deaf before the age of five. Bridgman reported that she could “see” things in her dreams, although she was likely referencing her ability to feel the heat of the sun on her eyes.
Keller, on the other hand, gave a much more detailed account of how she could dream. She said that her dreams were mostly nightmares (blind people are four times more likely to have nightmares than people with sight) until her teacher taught her to interpret the world differently. As she learned more, her dreams became more insightful, richer and less terrifying. Clearly, blind and deaf people really do dream differently!