The short answer is, no, you can’t read in dreams.
However, as a member of the 1% who can sometimes form language associations in dreams, let me just say that it’s not that simple, and there are some techniques you can use to make it more likely that you can read in dreams
So in this article, I’m going to dive into that. What dreams are, what happens to the language centers of our brains, and how we can shape those magnificent fatty organs in our noggins.
Let’s dive in.
What Are Dreams and What’s Happening With Our Brains?
We’ve all (I hope) dreamed before. We know what it’s like. Most of us have all probably experienced some weird subgenres of dreaming too, such as nightmares, recurring dreams, or dreams where we get to do weird stuff like fly or walk on water.
But what are dreams, really?
Technically, they are simple thoughts, emotions, images, etc. that we get when we’re sleeping. Because when we sleep, our brains don’t just turn off, they simple change to a different state of consciousness.
Most of the time, we dream from a first-person perspective, and it doesn’t really make sense.
However, the range of senses within the dream can vary a lot. Some people dream in color, some in black and white, and some rely on other senses besides sight. Blind people, for example, have enhanced smell, taste, and sound senses in their dreams.
Some Good Resources
If you want to know more about this subject, I highly recommend some of the following books to get caught up. I find this a fascinating topic, and one that a lot of readers think about.
Because I don’t know about you, but my brain can get pretty weird in its dreams.
So here’s some options:
The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Freud, Sigmund (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 1256 Pages - 07/18/2012 (Publication Date) - Modern Library (Publisher)
While Freud is largely disregarded in modern psychoanalysis, I do think his teachings are a good place to start. Because the evolution of psychoanalysis is important, and it’ll be easier to know where we are now, if we know where we’ve been.
Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Jung, C. G. (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 496 Pages - 03/01/2014 (Publication Date) - Princeton University Press (Publisher)
Though Freud started the field of psychoanalysis, it was really Jung who took it to the next level. This book is just one of many that I recommend, one that really digs into the different elements of the collective unconscious and how it relates to dreaming and dream meanings.
Contemporary Psychoanalytic Field Theory: Stories, Dreams, and Metaphor by S. Montana Katz
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And if you want to know where we are today, I recommend this book, which is a great overview of dream theory from a modern perspective.
So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at reading in dreams.
Language and Logic Skills: Why You Can’t Read in Dreams
So can you read in dreams? No, you cannot. At least, most people cannot.
Turns out when you sleep, the areas of your brain that are over language are much less active.
This is not a hard and fast rule, since most people have areas all over the brain that account for at least some of the language capability, but generally it’s less active. That means that simple tasks like reading, writing, and sometimes even speaking are less likely to happen.
We have two big areas that govern language: Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.
Broca’s area is the part of the brain that lets us assing meaning to words.
Wernicke’s area, on the other hand, governs grammar and syntax, putting words together in meaningful ways.
There are studies that show that the Wernicke’s area is less active at night, with participants reporting on any speech they made in the dream. They might make sense, grammatically, but the words don’t really fit correctly.
But it’s hard to say exactly what is happening here, since everyone is a little bit different. However, it’s safe to say that for most of us, the brain activity of our language centers is much lower, making it hard to read during REM sleep.
Exceptions to the Rule
While 99% of people don’t read when they sleep, there is an elusive 1% that does.
And wouldn’t you believe my pleasant shock when I found out that this 1% group is overwhelmingly made up of writers!
That’s right, if you’re a regular writer or poet, chances are you read, speek, and write more often in your dreams than most people.
Now on one level, this makes sense. All of these disciplines involve words, and writers deal with words more often than the average person. It’s a regular part of our everyday life.
When I first started researching this topic, I was a bit confused when I discovered that a lot of people don’t speak or hear memorable words in their dreams, because this happens to me all the time.
I can’t say for certain that I’ve ever read or written something in a dream, but I definitely talk. A lot.
But knowing this, it makes more sense. I’m a writer, I write a lot, so it stands to reason that my brain is more accustomed to working with words, and therefore they enter my dreams. This is especially true if I was thinking about something I’ve written or will write as I’m falling asleep.
Is Reading Possible in Lucid Dreaming?
It is not 100% known if you can read or write better while in a lucid dream state.
Lucid dreaming is essentially being aware that you are dreaming, and often leads to being able to control what happens in your dream more often.
While some people believe that it does become more likely to be able to read in dreams, some still maintain that you can’t just make a part of your brain active that is inactive during sleep.
That said, a lucid dream is the best kind of dream content, so let’s wrap up with a few tips on how to get there more often.
Practicing Lucid Dreaming
It’s not an exact science to learn how to lucid dream. But there are a few techniques that are recommended if you want to become a lucid dreamer.
During your day, simply ask yourself, “am I dreaming right now?” Then check to make sure you can with these simple checks.
- Read something
- Find a mirror and check yourself out
- Take a look at your hands
These are all things that are hard to do in dreams.
Now, it might seem silly to ask yourself this question when you clearly know that you’re awake. But you want to do this to make a habit. If you do, eventually you’ll start doing this in the dream too.
Once you start asking your dream self if you’re dreaming, the idea is that you’ll hopefully realize that you are, and be able to enter a lucid dreaming state at that point.
The Bottom Line
So unfortunately, no, most of us can’t read while dreaming. However, if you really want to, there are a few things you can do. You can either A) practice lucid dreaming, or B) become a writer.
Those all sound like great ideas to me!
Now excuse me while I go look in a mirror.