Do Blind People Dream?

And What Do They Dream About?

Do blind people dream? The answer is yes, although the kinds of dreams they have, and what blind people dream about, will be different based on factors like the age at which they lost their vision.

For example, people who become blind later in life still dream in color and see images much the way that sighted people do. People blind since birth do not "see" in dreams, but experience dreams based on other senses. Blind people also have more nightmares than sighted people do.

This article explains what is known about blind people and dreams, based on sleep science and the experiences of people themselves. It also looks at how their dreams compare with those of sighted people.

A woman hanging upside down
Graciela Vilagudin / Getty Images

Blind People and Sleep Stages

Dream sleep is associated with the sleep stage called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep, people will experience physiological changes such as deep muscle relaxation, faster respiration, jittering or darting eye movements, and increased brain activity.

In a typical night, REM sleep will lead to around two hours of dreaming, broken up by other alternating stages of sleep.

As for the dreams themselves, some researchers believe that they are simply the mind's way of consolidating memories, either by reviewing and reorganizing recent events or sensations or by connecting new experiences to older ones.

Within this context, vision is a central component of memory. However, it is not the only one available to either blind or sighted people.

As long as there are memories and sensations with which to connect, a person will dream whether they are sighted or blind. Taste, touch, smell, spatial awareness, and experience all are available.

What are Blind People's Dreams Like?

When most people think about dreams, they recognize the intense visual imagery created in the dreamscape. For many, it is like watching a movie in one's head. There may be other elements to the experience, including sounds, touch, taste, and smells; nevertheless, the visual experience plays a central role.

While most dreams contain features that are kinesthetic (related to movement) or auditory (related to sound), less than 1% involve olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), or tactile (touch) sensations.

In people with blindness, these sensations are more common when dreaming. Blind people rely on other senses in the absence of vision when they're awake, and they do so when a blind person dreams at night, too.

Some Blind People See in Dreams

Some blind people experience visual dreaming in which they "see" images in the dreamscape no differently than a sighted person. The facility to do so is largely dependent on the degree of blindness, as well as when they lost their vision.

Research has shown that people who become blind after age 7 retain the ability to "see" images in their dreams. Those blind from birth do not, but their brains may construct "virtual" images through hearing, touch, and other sense combinations.

People who became blind after age 7 will more likely experience visual sensations while dreaming, suggesting that there is a developmental threshold during which vision, cognition, and memory are melded. For these individuals, the visual images are similar to those of sighted people.

People with late blindness, however, will often lose clarity and color of the visual impressions the longer they are blind. As they get older, they may only intermittently "see" during a dream.

Although people born blind or who became blind early in life will not have visual dreams, many will experience spatial relationships that allow them to form imaginal representations of the size, scale, position, or movement of people and objects.

In essence, they "recognize" time, place, and people in the same way that sighted people do during dreams.

Emotional Intensity and Nightmares

While the contents of a dream do not vary between blind and sighted people, there are differences in the intensity of certain emotions.

According to a 2014 study published in Sleep Medicine, people born blind tend to experience more aggressive dreams and nightmares than those with sight or who became blind later in life.

This may be due to an inability to build mental images that keep memories and sensations easier to observe and process. Without some sense of spatial relationship, dreams may become more detached, disorganized, and chaotic.

Other theories suggest nightmares are more common in people who are born blind because they have a higher rate of threatening experiences in daily life. It is a phenomenon shared by people born deaf, who are also more likely to have nightmares.

Blind People and Nightmares

Nightmares are more common in people who are born blind. This may be due to the way their brains build memory and experience, leading to more chaotic dream experiences. It also may be because their daily lives include more threatening experiences, as people born deaf also are more likely to have nightmares.

A Word From Verywell

People who are blind dream as much as anyone else. Even though the ways in which they dream can differ, the emotional response and content of dreams are similar. The lack of sight doesn't make a dream experience any less "real" any more than it does in the daily lives of blind people.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.