Born Dreamers: The Blind Can See in Their Sleep

We dream during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. As our eyes move, the visual parts of our brain are switched on, making us dream. And this happens in blind people too. 

Can Blind People See in Their Dreams?

Studies have shown that people who became blind throughout their lives can see in their dreams. Often they contain colours, movement and visual patterns similar to those seen by sighted people. And this makes sense; these people have memories of seeing things after all and so know how to identify what they see.

Blind From Birth

But it’s a bit more complicated for people who are blind from birth. Having never seen things before, they may not know how to properly interpret visual imagery, even if they have seen it. Although someone who was born blind could report seeing in their dreams, it’s hard to ever really know.

To understand this more, researchers compared the eye movements and reported dreams between 10 people with sight and 10 people who couldn’t see from birth. They found that in both groups, 60% were able to recall dreams when awoken in REM sleep.

Although blind people had fewer eye movements than sighted people, the way their eyes moved during sleep corresponded with the dreams they recalled. This in mind, the researchers concluded that people who can’t see from birth do see during their dreams– and just as well as people who can see in their daily lives.

How Come?

As it turns out, the visual parts of our brains work even before we’re born. And what’s more, researchers have found that foetuses’ eye movements and brain activity can match those of people when they’re dreaming. So even before we’re born, with no sensory experience of the world, we can likely see in our dreams.

To conclude, it seems that the visual parts of our brains do not need to “see” anything to work. After all, they’re already activated even before we are born. And so even though the blind may not be able to see in their daily lives, their brains are still capable of creating images in their dreams just like anyone else.