To this day, science cannot fully explain what dreams are or why we have them. We pay little attention to the content of our dreams after we wake up, especially since our memory of the dream rapidly fades away as the day goes on. Dreams are associated with certain stages of sleep. The brain is extremely active during these stages. The majority of people dream for one to two hours every night. That adds up to a lot of time spent dreaming! So, should you be keeping track of your dreams?
Scientists have observed that dreams occur during the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stage of the sleep cycle. During this phase, the muscles of the body relax, and our eyes begin to look around in a random/rapid motion. Researchers state that these eye-movements are a response to visual stimuli while dreaming, especially since there is a spike in an electrical activity in the brain during this stage. Researchers have also found that individuals who are woken up during this stage of sleep, are better able to vividly remember their dreams than at any other sleep stage.
This is about as far as science has been able to go in explaining our dreams. For decades, researchers, psychologists, psychoanalysts and philosophers have attempted to understand the content of our dreams. Many people experience having the same dreams for example, falling out of a tall building. Others have dreamt about being late for something and trying to run but finding that their legs simply won’t move. One strangely common dream is dreaming that your teeth have fallen out!
Sigmund Freud was a pioneer in the field of dream interpretation. He believed that dreams offered an insight into our unconscious urges and impulses, which are suppressed while we are awake. Freud argued that this suppression led to an internal conflict within the psyche and he would regularly explore his clients’ dreams.
Dreams are also highly relevant to recent experiences and we often find random snippets from our day influencing our dreams that night. This has led researchers to suggest that dreams are a result of the brain sorting through the day, processing and making sense of events. The same may be true in relation to what a person has been thinking about recently.
Deciding if a dream is a random jumble of neurological activity or whether the dream holds some important significance is up to you. Have a go at tracking your dreams and see if they offer some understanding about yourself or current events in your life. You will be surprised by what you find.
Written by Shane McSweeney