May 09, 2018
Whether blind people dream is an interesting question — interesting enough to warrant numerous studies on the subject.
One such study, conducted by Danish scientists and published in Sleep Medicine, determined that, just as when awake, people who are blind use other senses in their dreams. Those who had once experienced sight reported using this sense during dreaming. Those blind from birth did not. Similarly, there was a connection between how long a person had once had sight and the amount of visual stimuli in their dreams — those with briefer periods of sight saw less.
But that doesn’t mean that people who can’t see don’t have vivid dreams; they just dream differently. Scientists call these types of dreams auditory dreams, and they utilize the senses of hearing, touch and smell instead of sight.
The answer to this question seems to rely on the individual. Of those people without sight who do see images in their dreams, the amount of color and images seem to depend upon a couple of factors:
So, in a nutshell — yes. People who once had sight may see colors in their dreams, though this isn’t necessarily true for everyone.
In the afore-mentioned study, participants confessed to having the same type and variety of dreams as sighted people. They dreamed about social interaction, failure, success, and more — typically the same sort of topics that most sighted people experience in the dream world. However, those who had been blind since birth did report having more nightmares. The big difference is the way the dreams are perceived. Voices, scents, emotions, noises, and touching all happen in the dreams of even those who are born blind.
Yes, you would still see images and colors in your dreams, at least for awhile. As more and more time passed between when you lost your sight and when you dreamed, those images might become fewer and less well-defined. However, according to the research, they would probably never cease all together. Once you’ve experienced the ability to see, it seems your brain never completely forgets.
What’s to see? Someone who has never seen a dinosaur or even a picture of a dinosaur may be able to form an intelligent opinion on how the creature might appear, but would that image be accurate? It’s hard to say. How do you describe sight to someone who’s never experienced it? You can describe attributes, like colors, textures and shapes. But someone congenitally blind has only abstract knowledge of the descriptors. If you’ve never experienced sight while awake, you’re not going to experience it in your dreams either. This is where the other senses take over.
Scientists believe that the human mind uses dreams to help the body cope with emotions and work through problems that it otherwise wouldn’t while awake. This skill isn’t missing in someone who was born blind; it’s just different.