As you may already know, when a person is blind their other remaining senses strengthen to make up for the loss of sight. The same idea applies to their dreams. When a sighted person recalls their dreams, most of the time only visual sensations are described. Although some blind people only experience their dreams with the senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
Whether a blind person can “see” or not during their dreams depends on when they lost their vision. Studies show that people who were born bind or went blind before the age of five will not have visual imagery in their dreams. (Peters) This means that someone who lost their sight at a later age likely has the same visual sensations during sleep that a sighted person has. Scientists believe this is because of the developmental threshold which melds vision, cognition, and memory. Although unfortunately, individuals with late blindness eventually lose clarity and color of their visual dreams.
What’s interesting is the difference in dream content between blind and sighted people. A study done in 1999 shows that the two groups have largely similar dreams, (Raypole) minus these few exceptions:
- Blind people had less dreams concerning personal success or failure
- Blind people were not as likely to dream about aggressive interactions
- Some dreamed about animals, especially their service dogs, more often
- A few reported more dreams about food or eating
- Blind people dream about some sort of travel or movement-related misfortune about twice as much as a person with vision
It is also believed that blind people have nightmares more often than normal because they have more threatening experiences that come along with their lack of vision. So in conclusion, both groups of people have the ability to dream, but blind dreams are slightly different from sighted dreams.
Brandon Peters, MD. “Discover What Blind People See or Experience in Sleep.” Verywell Health, 8 Oct. 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/do-blind-people-dream-3014820. Accessed March 7, 2021
Larson, Jennifer. “What Do Blind People See?” Healthline, 20 Nov. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/what-do-blind-people-see#misconceptions.
Raypole, Crystal. “Yes, Blind People Dream, Too.” Healthline, 5 Aug. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/can-blind-people-dream#nightmares. Accessed March 7, 2021