Psychologists Explain 6 Common Things We Can’t Do in Our Dreams

3 years ago

We still don’t fully understand the purpose of our dreams, but that doesn’t stop our brains from creating beautiful yet weird concepts in alternative worlds that leave us stunned in the morning. But for some reason, certain ordinary objects and actions seem to never appear in our dreams, while flying elephants, battles with aliens, or riding motorcycles might be part of our normal dream repertoire. However, things like smartphones, mirrors, and food are rare guests in our dreams.

Bright Side grew curious about why we couldn’t see or do some things in our dreams that we’re perfectly capable of in our waking life, and we found some unexpected explanations. As a bonus, Internet users have shared ordinary things they fail to do in their dreams.

1. Seeing smartphones

According to research, only about 3.55% of women and 2.69% of men see smartphones in their dreams. It might be connected to the fact that smartphones and other modern devices have appeared in our lives pretty recently, and our brains aren’t quite used to them.

There’s a theory that we dream in order for our brains to process our anxieties and fears, and it helps us deal with stressful events. So dreaming acts as some kind of evolved defense mechanism, and the things we dream about often come from older parts of the human mind. They’re more connected to problems that our ancestors could relate to, like fighting and surviving.

However, some circumstances might trigger the appearance of smartphones in our dreams. Alice Robb, the author of a book about dreams, shares that people are more likely to see smartphones in their dreams when they’re going through some intense life events, like mourning or losing a loved one.

2. Write, read, or actually speak

The regions of our brains that are responsible for interpreting language are much less active while we’re asleep. That’s why forming and expressing language may become quite a task.

For example, some people note that they’re not sure that they or other people are actually speaking in their dreams, and communication between them seems more like telepathy. So we can understand the concepts and ideas while we’re asleep, and we can express ourselves, but we don’t really hear the sound or see anyone actually talking.

The same goes for reading, writing, or telling time. We can get a general idea but we rarely can distinguish separate words or tell the exact time. However, people who use language in their everyday life a lot, such as writers or poets, may actually be able to make sense of the language in their dreams and come up with new ideas that can still be useful after they wake up.

3. Meeting complete strangers

There’s a theory that our brains can’t “invent” new people, and all the strangers we see in our dreams are either people we’ve already encountered somewhere or their faces are a combination of features we’ve already seen. While researchers point out that so far, there’s no way to test this theory because of the nature of our dreams, they say this hypothesis still might be true.

The majority of our dreams are likely to be based on mundane elements from our lives, so we’ve probably already seen strangers from our dreams. We may not remember them because the interaction was brief and meaningless, like, for example, if we see a person in a crowd or on some TV commercial and we don’t consciously remember them.

However, there’s probably nothing that could prevent our brains from coming up with new faces, but still, they’re likely to be based on facial features we’ve already seen.

4. Doing physical activities

We all have probably been there — you try to run, fight, or jump high, but it feels like you’re doing everything in slow motion no matter how hard you try. Researchers suggest that we may perceive time differently while sleeping, both faster and slower.

Besides, we see dreams during our REM sleep, and our muscles are immobilized and relaxed during this time. This way, our brains make sure that we won’t act on what we’re dreaming about. So this feeling of slow motion may occur because of the lack of muscular feedback or slower neural processing during this stage of sleep.

5. Looking at ourselves in the mirror

Mirrors and reflections are curious concepts when it comes to dreams. The point is that in the real world, reflections abide by the laws of physics, but dreams are driven by our subconscious expectations and memories, and “real-life” rules don’t really apply there. So we usually will see either something blurry or not really distinguishable in the mirror, or we might see our faces that were transformed in a weird way.

Some people believe that since dreams might be helping us process our waking life in some way, seeing your reflection in a mirror might be about looking at yourself from a psychological point of view instead of a realistic one. So things you see in a mirror might have some correlations with events in your everyday life, your self-esteem, and struggles you might be going through.

6.Tasting food

An expert says that people rarely get to feel the “full eating experience” in dreams, and we tend to remember that we were about to eat or that we were just done eating. But if we manage to remember the process itself, we might experience problems with identifying what exactly we were eating and what this food tasted like.

But sometimes, people get to feel the taste of food in their dreams, which is especially common among lucid dreamers. In our dreams, our brains create dream experiences for us either basing it on the real-life experiences we’ve already had, or we come up with our own idea of how some things might feel. So food might taste just like you’ve imagined it, better, or have an unpredictable taste based on your expectations and memories.

Bonus: Reddit users shared what things they couldn’t do in their dreams.

  • I used to never be able to walk on my feet. I was always levitating in a strange way, it was as if someone was always holding me up. @AttackParty / reddit
  • I can’t run without tripping or use logic to hide. My hiding skills are legendary in my family, but in dreams, it’s like I’m walking around with a giant balloon that says, “I’m over here!” @AnneAuthor / reddit
  • I can’t turn on lights, drive any ground vehicle, swim, or even float. @tangyradar / reddit

  • I can’t recall names or numbers from dreams. Even if they’re shown to me multiple times in the dream. @Phantomdust84 / reddit

  • I can’t blow candles out on a birthday cake. @The1983 / reddit

What everyday things can you no longer do in your dreams? Or maybe you’re able to perform some of the actions mentioned in our article! Tell us down below.


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I cannot be a normal person in my dreams. I'm always a spy, secret agent or some random guy with superpowers. Even Harry Potter 🤣🤣🤣


i lucid dream a lot .. so i have many dreams where i’m in control , i can swim , i feel pain , i feel anything , i fly , i can visit people in and out of dreams , i can eat , use phones , drive cars ( i’m not good at it 😭) , anything .. run walk , and i know that i’m dreaming all while dreaming


I had a dream where I was talking and people were talking and I could see faces, and then I was about to die or something and woke up just then


I have once been able to distinguish letters in a dream in a note someone gave me. Also, whenever I looked into a mirror, I saw someone else, way different from me. I am usually the driver selected in the dream emergency even though I can't drive in real life, and then I find very imaginative ways to drive the car in my dreams, and never gets found out too. There is one stranger that appeared in a couple of dreams, and he always helped me out of situations.


I recently had a dream where I was in a museum and I saw many faces and heard people talk spoke to a maintenance man and read the paragraphs next to the displays. A couple days before that dream, I dreamt about running, it did feel sluggish though.


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