Dream is a state of consciousness characterized by internally-generated sensory, cognitive and emotional experiences occurring during sleep. Dream reports tend to be particularly abundant, with complex, emotional, and perceptually vivid experiences after awakenings from rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This is why our current knowledge of the cerebral correlates of dreaming, mainly derives from studies of REM sleep. Neuroimaging results show that REM sleep is characterized by a specific pattern of regional brain activity. We demonstrate that this heterogeneous distribution of brain activity during sleep explains many typical features in dreams. Reciprocally, specific dream characteristics suggest the activation of selective brain regions during sleep. Such an integration of neuroimaging data of human sleep, mental imagery, and the content of dreams is critical for current models of dreaming; it also provides neurobiological support for an implication of sleep and dreaming in some important functions such as emotional regulation.