Whether we remember it or not, we all dream. We might even dream up to 4 to 6 times per night. Sometimes we find ourselves entertained while other times we are left feeling disturbed after a bizarre dream. After all, dreams are stories, similar to movies playing in our head. They can be so vivid that we can actually wake up feeling happy, sad, mad, confused, or even scared. Dreams are most vivid during deep sleep which is called rapid eye movement (REM). During this time, the brain is very active.
Sigmund Freud believed that dreams tell us about our subconscious. Our thoughts, motivations, and unconscious desires are revealed. What we might think society perceives as unacceptable, we think and feel during our dreams.
Dreams are somewhat of a mysterious phenomenon, with some researchers saying they serve no purpose while others claim dreams are necessary for our mental health. They may have no connection to reality, but some experts have found that when restricted from the act of dreaming a person can wake up feeling depressed, anxious, have a hard time concentrating, experience weight gain, and overall feel a sense of tension. Dreams could just be night time stories that keep us asleep. Dreams help us sort out our life’s problems, process emotions, and incorporate our memories. A person can go to bed troubled by a problem and wake up with a solution. Re-occuring dreams might have meaning that help us discover our deepest fears and concerns. For example, a dream someone has over and over about falling off a cliff or being chased might really be about a hidden trigger or stressor. On the other hand, every dream can be unique and interpreted differently.
Nightmares are bad dreams we don’t like. They stir up emotional problems, stress, and may be caused by illnesses or medications. The bottom line is that no matter how scary the dream is, it is not real. Lucid dreams occur when we are in between REM and being awake, so they seem extremely real. The brain is really active. Dreams don’t predict the future but can sometimes feel coincidental. Most of the time we don’t even remember our dreams. Imagine if we were able to remember all of our dreams. We might not be able to separate reality from what we dreamt. During REM it is possible that our brain shuts off the memory device so we only recall what we thought about just before we wake up. People who wake up several times in the night are more likely to remember their dreams. Sometimes just being conscious that you want to remember your dreams will help you recall them better.
There are different theories when it comes to interpreting our dreams, but think of them more as your brain’s free play time. It is entertaining itself as we sleep until we rise again and it’s back to work. Some say dreams do come true, but the truth is that we will never really know that answer. For now, it’s nice to believe that dreams really do come true especially when we are young and imaginative.