We all dream and we dream a lot (many people disagree with this). The average human will spend roughly 6 years of their lives dreaming. It’s just that we don’t remember them all.
And there’s a lot to remember. On an average night, you have
one dream every 90 minutes. But you can have as little as five
or as many as dozens depending on the night.
And each of those dreams is longer than the last. Your first
dream will be around 5 minutes. By the end of your sleep
cycle, your dreams are 45 minutes long.
Why do we dream? To be perfectly honest, scientists aren’t
exactly sure. But there are a lot of viable theories. The science of dream study is relatively new. However, scientists have uncovered lots of interesting stuff so far. And we’ve got the most widely accepted theories here. So sit back and relax. We’re about to take a journey through the science of dreams. By the end, you’ll know as much as anyone.
#What’s In A Dream?
Just what is a dream, really? According to scientists, a dream
consists of the images, thoughts and emotions that you experience when you’re sleeping. But is that all they are?
Dreams have a big impact on human lives. We’ve been studying them since ancient Egypt. Just what do they mean? What should we take from them? Well, there are several competing theories to offer an explanation.
#The Longest Running Theory
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic dream theory is perhaps the
most enduring. According to Freud, dreams represent our unconscious desires, ideas and motivations. For him, dreams are basically the expression of all the desires we’re afraid to confront during the day. His theory explains why many of the dreams we remember are chaotic. We have nightmares, sex dreams, fight dreams that run the emotional gamut. And Freud’s psychoanalytic theory argues that we understand ourselves better when we understand those base desires. This understanding is at the root of modern dream interpretation. When we wake up, we go back to sift through our sleep for clues about our waking life.
#Was Sigmund Freud Right?
Thanks to Freud’s influence, we all try to interpret our dreams.
But was Freud right? As dream science grows, it can’t find
much evidence to support old Freud.
Dream scientist tackle dream studies with all the modern
technology available. But, try as they might, scientists can’t really find any connections between dreams and their psychological significance.
Does that mean that you should throw out your dream book?
It may be too soon for that. But modern science does offer
some dream theories that are just as exciting as Freud’s.
#A More Modern Model
After Freud’s dream theory came another by J. Allan Hobson
and Robert McClarley. Their theory is more scientific. They
think that we dream simply because the brain’s circuits
become overstimulated during REM sleep.
A lot of that activity happens in the limbic system. This is the
area that controls our emotions, memories and senses. That’s
why our dreams feel so significant.
While all of this stimulation is happening, other areas of our
brain try to make sense of it. And that’s why we dream. It’s
our brain trying to make sense of all of that spastic activity.
If that’s true, do dreams mean nothing at all?
#So What Do Our Dreams Mean?
Current dream theory sort of disagrees with Freud. But that
doesn’t mean that your dreams mean nothing. Dreams may be
the product of over-stimulation, but its still part of our brain’s
most creative period.
The signals may be random, but our brain combines those
random signals into new ideas. Most of those ideas mean
nothing at all. But some of those new ideas can be useful to
us. These ideas are a product of some of the best thinking our
brains can do. And it’s thinking that we might not be able to
accomplish while we’re awake.
#Dreams May Be Telling You Something
Ever had recurring dreams or nightmares? Your brain may be
trying to tell you something. When your brain fixates on the
same imagery and emotions, it’s trying to rid itself of pesky
#Dreams Help You Learn
It’s one of the few certain things scientists know about
dreams. The best time to absorb information is right before
you sleep. While you dream, your brain will absorb the new
Harvard neuroscience professor Robert Stickgold calls this
off-line memory reprocessing. While you sleep, your brain is
free from outside stimuli. It can then use all of its computing
power to tackle the new information. His test subjects all had
better recall of information after they slept on what they
learned. It’s the best excuse we’ve heard for taking a snooze
break while studying.
#Dreams Help To Explore New Worlds
You can control your dreams. The premise of the new movie
Inception is that people can take the reins of their dreams and
make them what they want them to be. But it may not just be
a Hollywood fantasy. In fact, 64.9 percent of participants in a recent survey reported being aware they were dreaming within a dream, and 34 percent said they can sometimes control what happens in their dreams. Taking charge of the content of your dreams isn’t a skill everyone has, but it can be developed, says Kelly Bulkeley, PhD, a dream researcher and visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California.
The technique is particularly useful for people who suffer
from recurring nightmares, he says. Dr. Bulkeley suggests
giving yourself a pep talk of sorts before you go to sleep by
saying: “If I have that dream again, I’m going to try to
remember that’s it’s only a dream, and be aware of that.”
When you learn to be aware that you are dreaming—within a
dream—you not only have the power to steer yourself away
from the monster and into the arms of Brad Pitt, for instance,
but you train your mind to avoid nightmares in the first place.
“Lucid dreaming enhances your ability to learn from the
dream state,” says Dr. Bulkeley.
#Dreams Affect Your Mood
Ever had a nightmare that set the tone for the day? How about
a dream that made your morning seem brighter? Dreams have
a calculable effect on your mood.
The opposite is also true. If you go to bed after an unresolved
argument, you’re likely to have nightmares. Fall asleep in a
good mood and sweet dreams will come.
Unfortunately, daily discomforts are more likely to show up in
your dreams. According to Harvard scientist Robert Stickgold,
its because your brain is more likely to work out difficulties
while you’re sleeping — and more willing to confront them.
#Whatever Dreams Do, We Really Need Them?
Scientists don’t know exactly why we need dreams. But they
do know that we need them.
If you don’t sleep for more than 10 days, you’ll die. If you
don’t dream for several days, you do irreparable psychological
damage to your brain.
#Japanese May Be Able To Help Interpret Dreams
Recently, a team of Japanese researchers announced a potential breakthrough: they’ve developed a program that can detect dreams. They found a way to see what people are dreaming about. In a study, they were able to categorize what people saw in their dreams with 60 percent accuracy, according to media reports.
“We know almost nothing about the function of dreaming,” Masako Tamaki, a neuroscientist at Brown University, told Livescience. “Using this method, we might be able to know more about the function of dreaming.”
Tamaki is a co-author of the study.
Keep on dreaming, its very healthy.
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