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Dream vs. Reality: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 8, 2023
A dream is a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in the mind during sleep, while reality is the state of things as they actually exist.

Key Differences

Dreams are internal experiences, subjective and often abstract, occurring in the mind. Reality, in contrast, is the external world as it exists objectively and independently of individual perceptions.
In dreams, awareness is altered; they can involve unrealistic or surreal events. Reality is marked by conscious awareness and interactions with the physical world, governed by consistent laws of nature.
Dreams are usually beyond conscious control and can be influenced by various factors like experiences and emotions. Reality, however, is often shaped by deliberate actions and decisions within the constraints of physical laws.
Dreams are not bound by temporal and spatial constraints, allowing for impossible scenarios. Reality is constrained by time and space, adhering to the rules of causality and physics.
Dreams can serve various psychological purposes, like processing emotions or problem-solving. Reality is the arena for practical life activities, interactions, and experiences that have tangible consequences.

Comparison Chart


Subjective mental experiences.
Objective state of the world.


Altered, often surreal.
Conscious, consistent with physical laws.


Beyond conscious control.
Influenced by deliberate actions.


Unconstrained by time and space.
Bound by time, space, and causality.

Purpose and Function

Psychological, emotional processing.
Practical life activities, tangible outcomes.

Dream and Reality Definitions


Dreams can represent unconscious desires and wishes.
Her dream often reflects her aspirations to travel the world.


Reality refers to the tangible, physical world.
In reality, climbing a mountain is much harder than it looks.


Dreams can be a way of processing emotions and experiences.
He often dreams about past events, helping him cope.


Reality is governed by physical laws and principles.
The reality of gravity became clear when he dropped the glass.


Dreams are not limited by reality's rules, allowing for surreal experiences.
In her dream, she conversed with animals and mythical creatures.


Reality is often verified by collective human experience.
In reality, most people agree that the earth orbits the sun.


A dream is a series of thoughts and images occurring in the mind during sleep.
Last night, I had a vivid dream about flying.


Reality is the state of things as they exist, independent of perception.
The reality of the situation was harder to accept than expected.


Dreams are inherently personal and subjective.
His dreams are often influenced by his day-to-day life.


Reality encompasses actual experiences and events.
The harsh reality of life's challenges can be overwhelming.


A series of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.


The quality or state of being actual or true.


A daydream; a reverie.


One, such as a person, an entity, or an event, that is actual
"the weight of history and political realities" (Benno C. Schmidt, Jr.).


Are dreams always fictional?

They can include elements of both fiction and real experiences.

Can we control our dreams?

Some control is possible in lucid dreaming.

Can dreams affect reality?

They can influence emotions and thoughts but not physical reality.

What is reality?

The state of things as they exist objectively.

Do dreams have meaning?

They can, but interpretations are subjective.

How is reality verified?

Through empirical evidence and collective human experience.

What is a dream?

A series of thoughts and images in the mind during sleep.

Is reality always tangible?

It typically involves tangible, physical aspects.

Do dreams occur in deep sleep?

They mainly occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

Is reality constant?

The physical world is constant, though our understanding of it evolves.

Is reality the same for everyone?

While perceptions vary, the objective reality is consistent.

Can dreams predict the future?

There's no scientific evidence to support this.

Is reality influenced by culture?

Cultural perceptions can influence understanding of reality.

Does everyone perceive reality the same?

Perceptions vary, but the underlying reality is consistent.

What is the purpose of dreaming?

Theories suggest emotional processing and problem-solving.

Can reality be subjective?

Personal perceptions can be subjective, but reality itself is objective.

Why do we dream?

For various reasons, including psychological processing.

Are dreams a type of reality?

They're a subjective experience, separate from objective reality.

How do we distinguish dream from reality?

Reality is consistent and aligns with collective experience, unlike dreams.

Can reality be altered?

It can be influenced by actions but not fundamentally altered.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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