When people say they don’t dream it’s often more the case that they don’t remember their dreams.
When experiments have been done to monitor dreams - most notably people being woken after each stage of REM sleep and then being asked if they’re dreaming - typically pretty much everyone will report some sort of dream. These dreams can vary on a scale of how vivid it is. Some people might have very boring dreams; others will have very vivid dreams.
And then the next morning when you ask the same people if they can remember their dreams some people will say no, even though they said they were dreaming when they were woken in the night. So I think it’s not a case of people not dreaming, but more the fact that some people just don’t remember their dreams. And that might be because their dreams are not very interesting.
"If you have very vivid dreams about flying around buildings or fighting dragons or some other nominally exciting dream you’re much more likely to remember them because you’re more likely to pay attention."
One thing we’ve found is that if you try and keep a journal or a diary of your dreams that actively encourages higher incidences of remembering dreams. When you start a diary you might start off not remembering that much or they might not be that clear - it might be only be the level of detail as remembering that you were walking down a path for instance. But if people carry on with that diary you start to find that people remember more and more. It’s a good way of encouraging more dreams.
But in terms of everyone dreaming, or not, I’d say it’s a case of people not remembering their dreams, rather than not having any dreams at all. Part of that could be the content of the dream - if your dreams aren’t all that interesting, perhaps you just don’t remember them. If you have very vivid dreams about flying around buildings or fighting dragons or some other nominally exciting dream you’re much more likely to remember them because you’re more likely to pay attention.
Another thing to take into consideration is how well you can recognise when you’re dreaming. Often these studies are done on quite small samples and so sometimes maybe they’re not big enough to actually detect the differences. One thing we’ve found before - and this is research related to lucid dreams rather than regular dreaming - is that daydreaming correlates quite substantially to lucid dreaming, so if you have lots of vivid daydreams, with very vivid internal imagery, lucid dreaming is stronger and more frequent.
The second thing to look at is dissociation - it’s when you’re almost detached from reality. So one dissociative experience would be perhaps arriving somewhere but not remembering how you got there. We’ve found that people who dissociate when they’re awake they tend to have more lucid dreams too.