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Real-time Dreaming


Do you dream in real-time? That is … chronological, one minute in dream world equals one minute passing in real world?

I’m pretty sure you, and I as well, do not.

“Jason … what’s your data?”

Good question!  Let’s look at a very specific dream, the telephone ringing.

In your dreams at night, if your phone rings, or your alarm clock rings, much of the time you will think that the phone is ringing in your dream.  You will in fact visualize the phone ringing, nearby, far away, doesn’t matter, in your dream the phone is ringing.

Now think about it chronologically.  When the phone rings in your dream, there was some backstory, wasn’t there?  You were sitting in your office and the phone started ringing.  Walking down the street and your pocket was playing a familiar tune.  Maybe you were expecting a call from somebody and verified by looking at the caller ID.  Whatever it may be, there is a setting for that phone ringing to take place.

Now let’s tie this together…

Did your brain know that the phone was about to ring, so it set up a scenario, in your brain, where it would be logically acceptable for a phone to be ringing minutes before, culminating with the perfect timing of dream world and real world colliding through a ring tone?  I am going to have to say… no.

What most likely happened is that the phone started ringing and it immediately registered in your brain.  Then to catch up, your brain created these “memories” of what had previously happened leading up to the phone ringing.

So in that sense, the brain can nearly instantaneously creating complex situations that can include thoughts, emotions, and visualizations memories.  Crazy, eh?

Now the obvious question is … what’s the ratio of dream time to real-time?  Can in a single night of sleep, my brain convince me through the creation of these “dream memories”, that I have lived an entire lifetime?  Dreams can seem very real, and if the constraint of time is removed, I’m sure the brain could do some amazing things…

(image from


Jimmy Brokaw

Brain scan science has made amazing discoveries in the realm of figuring out how decisions are made. One of the surprising ones is that a decision is often “made” before we think of it as made. We may remember it as “problem->analysis->decision”, but often what actually happened was “problem->decision->justification”, and the conscious brain simply re-orders the thoughts into the more socially acceptable order.

It’s kinda a scary thought, and a good reminder to slow down and take our time when making important decisions. It also makes your post make a lot of sense… we should recognize that while in reality what happened was “phone->dream sequence leading to phone” and our brain “fixed” it, because we should be more aware of and recognize our own brains’ limitations.

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