WHY DO WE DREAM? THE SECRETS BEHIND OUR DREAMS…
It’s one of those mornings: when the alarm snapped you out of sleep, you were dreaming, and all through breakfast you’ve been trying to piece together your dream or wondering why it was so weird. Let’s unpack the mystery of our dreams and dive a little deeper into the role they may play in our well-being.
Most mornings, we wake up without remembering our dreams. Did we even dream at all? The answer is that we dream for around two hours per night. It’s just that we forget up to 95% of them. Researchers have found that dreams last anywhere from five seconds to 20 minutes. So, during your lifetime, you’ll spend about six years dreaming!
Why do we remember some dreams and not others?
We’re most likely to remember our dreams if we are woken up during the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep. Although dreaming sometimes occurs during the non-REM phase, REM is a reliable trigger for a dream state. Dreams fade quickly after waking, though. Sometimes, you’ll remember elements of a dream later in the day. This may be because an experience has triggered the same area of the brain that created the dream.
So, why do we dream?
Scientists are still not quite sure why we dream. Some suggest that dreaming helps us to consolidate memories, process emotions, express our deepest desires and/or practise confronting potential dangers. Some experts believe dreaming is important for our mental, emotional and physical well-being, while others suggest that dreams serve no purpose at all.
Why do we dream about the things we do?
If there’s something you really care about in the waking world, you’re likely to dream about that more often than other people do. Dreaming offers a surprisingly accurate portrait of our emotional preoccupations – try to find elements from your dreams that you can relate to your current worries or mood.
What a nightmare!
Nightmares are very realistic, disturbing dreams that cause us to wake in fear – often with a pounding heart – and they’re not just something children experience. The causes of nightmares are varied, and include having a late-night snack, which may signal the brain to be more active; side-effects of medications (or withdrawal from them); anxiety and depression; PTSD; sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. For most of us, nightmares are simply unpleasant; for others, nightmares are more frequent and can lead to significant sleep deprivation and/or a sleep disorder, in which case professional treatment is recommended.
When you’re “in” your dream
Have you ever been aware that you’re in the middle of a dream? This state even has a name: lucid dreaming. About half of us remember experiencing at least one instance of lucid dreaming, and some regularly have these kinds of dreams. In a lucid dream you can often control yourself and the environment – this can even be improved with practice!
Do we all dream about the same things?
Falling? Being chased? Feeling frozen with fear? Yep, the research that there are definitely some common themes to our dreams. Since 2009, the Sleep and Dream Database (SDDb) has gathered tens of thousands of dream reports and sleep data from people all over the world. They also found that while most people report dreaming in colour, some of us dream only in black and white. If you’re interested, sift through this database yourself, to see if other people share your dreams. Even though our dreams are not usually exactly the same, you might find familiar aspects, like certain emotions, colours, characters, or social interactions.
But what about all the bizarre things that pop up in our dreams – things that have no relation to fact? Making sense of this remains a challenge for dream researchers. We do know that a good night’s sleep, along with eating well and regular exercise, contributes to our health. As for dreams, they remain fascinating both to those who have them, and to the researchers who study them…
With thanks to Linda Rinn for her contribution to this article.
Tell us more about your dreams! Do you keep dreaming the same dream? Do your dreams help you to understand what’s bothering you? Do share below.
Photo: Zhang Kaiyv/Unsplash
6 commentsWrite a comment
Something I did not know and found very interesting was the fact that many people dream in black and white. It is also noteworthy that at least half of people remember having experienced a lucid dream. Personally, I remember at some point in my life waking up from a dream for a while, remembering it very clearly, and then falling asleep again and seeing the continuation of the dream, as if it were a story. What is certain is that there is still room for research on dreams and what people experience through them.
Thank you for your comment, Maria.
Glad you found this article valuable about the fascinating world of dreams.
I actually love dreaming as that is my way of dealing and releasing things that are going on in my life.I tend to do some dream journaling and it helps at times. I see some very clear dreams and it’s lovely 🙂 I try to go go to bed with a good feeling & think of my closest family member and hope to see them in my dreams. It helps to give me a fuzzy warm feeling! Of course there are times, when they are vivid and dreams disappear….and then I just let it be…I really love dreaming and I day dream a lot as well 🙂 which might sound a bit funny ……..so I have to consciously tell myself to come back to reality! And I strongly believe in the world of dreams as that is also my connection to the spiritual world!
It’s so special to hear about your close relationship with your dreams, and how you tend to it by journalling. I love how anything is possible in the dream world and how time and location all become one. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
This is an excellent article! I didn’t know that we often remember parts of our dreams later in the day when we experience something that triggers the same part of our brain. Very interesting. I would also recommend checking out this article from Dr. Anthony Metivier on how to remember your dreams as an additional read: https://www.magneticmemorymethod.com/how-to-remember-dreams/
So glad you found the article interesting, and thank you so much for sharing the resource!