What do blind people dream about?

Meera Mahesh

I bet you can remember the last time you had a horrifying nightmare when you woke up with your heart racing and could swear that the dream was real life. What are dreams, and does everyone experience them?


What is a dream?

In the most basic sense, a dream is any thought, emotion or experience that you are aware of when asleep. Dreaming is what happens when neurons (brain cells) in different parts of your brain fire either randomly (when you experience random fragmented dreams), or in sync (when you experience the dreams that may go on for what feels like hours). The different parts of the brain include the centres for hearing, seeing, and even for smelling and touching.

Although some dreams feel like they go on for days, did you know that an average dream only lasts between 5-20 mins? You dream about 4 to 6 times every night. This might sound strange because you can barely remember them.

The reason you can’t remember your dreams is because you mostly dream during a certain phase of sleep, called the deep sleep phase. Throughout your entire life, you dream for an average of 6 years!


Types of Dreams

A ‘normal’ dream is quite visual and can be very pleasant to quite strange. You may not remember many of these.

A nightmare is scary and disturbing and can be caused if you are stressed, haven’t slept very well or if you have seen or read something scary before bed.

Lucid dreaming is when you are aware of dreaming while you’re in the dream. Some people can control their dreams, which helps if they suffer from nightmares and bad sleep.

Sometimes you think you have woken up from a dream, only to find out when the alarm goes off that you were asleep the whole time. This is called a ‘false awakening’.



Now that we have some background knowledge of dreaming, let’s talk about the other part of our question. What does it mean to be blind, and what causes blindness?

Contrary to what many people think, being blind doesn’t always mean that the person cannot see anything. It is a spectrum – about 20% of people with significant visual impairments are totally blind, however 80% can tell the difference between light and dark, but cannot see colour, shapes or people.

There are many different ways people become blind. Some are born with visual impairments that can be inherited or caused by an infection like measles. Some are born with sight, but gradually over life lose their vision. This can happen if you need glasses but don’t wear them, if you have poorly controlled diabetes, or it can just be part of the natural process of ageing.


So…What do blind people dream about?

It depends!

For someone born without any sight, they have never seen people’s faces, objects, or colours. For them, they have ‘auditory’ dreams. These are dreams in which there is only sound, and no images. So, think about the last dream you can remember, and take away the images.

For someone who was born with sight, but then became partially sighted when older, the person dreams with images just as clear as when they could see before. The person will remember their friends’ faces like they were before they became blind. For any new friends, the person dreams of what they think the new friend looks like, or sometimes dreams of a blur in the place of the friend.