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What Is the Difference Between a Dream and a Vision?

Dreams are often a portal whereby we can revisit the past. We can converse with people who have passed away, relive childhood memories, and see places we love where we once lived.

When we sleep, dreams can feel like an out-of-body experience.

Usually, people process dreams as if they went on a nighttime rollercoaster. Maybe they saw some amazing things or got to see some cool people, and maybe even some of it was scary, but we can typically keep what happened at arm’s reach. We don’t put too much stock in it.

That’s not to say that some dreams don’t have meaning. There are a lot of people who take what happens in their dreams very seriously.

View from behind of a man standing at view point looking to beautiful landscape

It’s like they get a peek into their psyche, and they journal what happens in their dreams and try to analyze it to find a theme or a hidden message.

Visions, on the other hand, are like dreams but carry much more weight than your “normal” dream. People who have visions frequently experience them while they are awake.

When someone has a vision, it’s like someone or something is sending them a strong signal about an issue, a person, or some other topic.

We’re not talking here about visions as in vision boards that you write on a whiteboard or writing down goals for your vision of your future.

These are deeply meaningful experiences that help people interpret meaning, offer clues about future events, or increase understanding.

Talking about the difference between a dream and a vision often boils down to the seriousness of the topic and the impact it has on the person who experienced it.

Let’s dive into dreams and visions more deeply to understand why they can be so different.

What Happens When We Dream?

Do dreams have a purpose?

While some people scoff at the idea that dreams mean something, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that dreams are very important. The world is full of stories of people who dreamed something and it changed the entire course of their life.

You see things in a different light or adjust your goals as a result of what happened inside your brain as you lay asleep.

When you are sleeping, your body shuts down, but your brain is still active. Though brain activity when you are asleep is different than when you’re awake, it’s still firing away.

Not having to process reality, your brain enters into fantasy environments where you can fly, visit with dead grandparents, and relive past experiences.

Some people experience lucid dreams where the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming and can exercise some level of control over what happens and where they go.

Dreams are hard to remember because when you wake up, you’re bombarded with reality and all of the things you have to accomplish in the waking world.

That’s why keeping a dream journal can be so helpful. When you have a lucid dream or something that you want to remember, you can write it down and revisit it later when you have time.

woman sleeping dreaming she is flying

Dreams and The Astral Plane

The astral plane is a plane of existence with significant meaning for many religions and philosophies.

A lot of people think that, when we die, we go to the astral realm, and it’s where we were before we were born. Spirits occupy this realm that still maintains connections to life here in our current reality.

If you see something in a dream, is that something that is happening on the astral plane?

When someone dreams that they are meeting someone, like a lost family member, or someone who carries a message for them, many believe that this person resides in the astral realm. They take it as a divine signal.

Does that mean it’s a vision?

That depends on who you are asking. Some people, like religious believers, take meaningful dreams as visions to guide their lives and experiences from which they can draw meaning.

So what is the difference between a dream and a vision?

Typically, a vision deals with something that is going to happen in the future or a new insight into something in the past that will affect behavior or what happens in the future.

Do Dreams Have a Purpose?

Normally, people sleeping spend a quarter of the time asleep in Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, sleep.

This is where most dreams occur. If you’re not getting enough sleep, or the conditions aren’t conducive to good sleep, then you’re possibly depriving yourself of having great dreams or even what you would call visions.

People have been studying dreams for centuries. We naturally attempt to seek meaning from experiences that we know aren’t real but are adjacent to our normal waking lives.

child dreaming he is flying on a pencil in the sky

Dreams can:

  • Stoke Creativity: Artists regularly cite dreams in their work. Some of the best music, painting, drawings, poetry, and other art comes from what the artists saw or interpreted in their dreams.

Creativity isn’t only for artists, though. We all need creativity in our lives to help us find new ways to strengthen bonds with family members, achieve new goals at work, or push ourselves in a different direction. Dreaming can help you build your creative muscles.

  • Process Trauma: The way that we remember traumatic experiences is so unique to each individual. Two people can be in the same place at the same time when something happens, and years later have completely different takes on the event. Dreams often take us back to poignant or painful experiences in our past.

We get the chance to look at something again or talk to people that would be impossible to do in the waking world.

  • Provide Cherished Memories: People report seeing and talking with dead people in dreams all of the time. Dreams can be a fantastic way to reconnect with loved ones who have passed away. These are some of the most precious dreams.
  • They Energize: Have you ever woken up from a wonderful dream? It instantly puts you into a better mood and you feel more energy throughout the day. Having a good dream can have a positive impact on your relationships at home and work.
  • Dreams Help Us Reflect: Interpreting dreams can be challenging, but keeping a dream journal is a great way to go back and process what happened in a dream. You can gain valuable insights into your relationships, how you acted in certain situations, and how you would change something that happened in the dream.

What to Do If You Have a Vision

If you experience a particularly meaningful dream or a vision, keep hold of it. You don’t have to be overly religious or philosophical to know that a dream is something more than just a dream.

If you see something that happens in the future, whether it’s a set of events or a place that you want to be, look to the vision or dream for clues as to how you can get there. Let it serve as a foundation for building the life that you want.

A vision can be the start of changes that you want to make and help you create the beautiful life that you want.