What’s the Resolution and Frame Rate of Dreams?

Last night I woke up with a bout of insomnia.  I was in a strange state of going in and out of consciousness and I had some very vivid dreams.  What was fascinating was I was just conscious enough to realize how my dreams were working.  An image would pop into my mind, and then very quickly my mind would provide a story for the image.  I didn’t hear words though.  It was like a telepathic storyteller was narrating my dreams and I just thought the explanations of each image as it appeared.  And those explanations animated the images into a sequence of events – so the dream felt like a movie, a story.


The first image was looking down at my legs and seeing one boot on and one foot just in a white sock – I assumed I was jogging.

I saw an image of my friend Laurie – and assumed we were jogging together.

The next image was me running down a street alone – and then telling myself I’m on a strange street and I need to turn back to find one I know.

The then I saw a series of strange streets – some urban, some suburban – and I assumed I was completely lost.

The next image was being in a movie theater – I thought I came in to ask directions

Then I saw strange people – I was asking them what street was this movie theater on but they didn’t know.

One guy looked like he had Down’s syndrome – so I thought the group was of special needs people.

The next image was of a black woman – she said something about the rules and I thought I had been committed and was on a day trip to see a movie together.

The next image was running in a corridor, and I thought I was escaping.

The next image was me running with boots on both feet – and I thought how much I loved Frye boots

There was more – but I forgot

The point was my dream was a series of images, and a narrative was added to them to make a story, which made the dream flow.  I think because the images came close together, the narrative, or narrator, tied them together, but the images really weren’t related.

Over the years as I’ve been working on writing fiction I’ve often thought my dreams came up with good story ideas.  Now I’m thinking that the dreaming mechanism in my brain is a fiction machine.  The brain generates random images while I sleep and the storytelling portion of my brain ties them together with some kind of meaningful narrative.

Some dreams are more vivid than others.  I wonder just how many pixels a dream image has?  And what is the frame rate of my mind for generating new images.  There are times when I think I am seeing a movie segment, but I think my brain is often lazy and just puts up a few images.  I’ve had some very powerful dreams, ones where I thought I was awake and everything looked and felt absolutely normal, but I was still asleep.  That suggests the brain is capable of producing HD Dreams.  However, it still might have been single images and not a movie, and the narrative was HD powerful.

Today I was listening to music with headphones and almost dozing off, and I realize the song was inspiring a video like sequence on my mind’s theater screen.  It was rather strange and small, but it was an animation of a crowd of people running, and then they all got on horses, and continued to chase something.  It was a fleeting vision.  It looked like a very low resolution YouTube video.

All of this makes me think of how often we fictionalize random images and thoughts.  If you’re laying in bed at night reading and hear the bushes rustle outside your window most people imagine all kinds of scenarios.  It’s a burglar, it’s a raccoon, it’s the neighbor’s cat – we seldom get up and look.  We just make up stuff in our head to explain the input.

Think about how often you make stuff up to explain a random stimulus.  Think how often everything we believe is just made up stuff.

JWH – 10/14/13

2 thoughts on “What’s the Resolution and Frame Rate of Dreams?”

  1. There are some occurrences, such as the “start” or shock as if you are falling (you don’t actually fall but your body reacts like it has) and your mind is capable of generating a reason why you were falling – like a lucid dream of walking along the top of a wall – and then you slip.

    I have had this happen in many and various ways in the past. I believe the dream state can take place independently of how our human minds perceive time.

    Some times, the movement in bed that leads to the falling (sensation) and the time gap is too short to explain how at waking speed, our minds could have time to develop a story.

    Maybe the dream state exists outside of the physical constraints of our experience of linear time?

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