Dreams are weird and wonderful things that happen to some of us every night. Sigmund Freud was one of the first people to investigate the psychological importance of dreams in the late 19th century, and since then, a huge amount of research has helped get to the bottom of these mystifying acts of sleep.
Everybody dreams, but the content of each dream is different and bespoke to that person. For some, they affect their sleep dramatically, whereas for others, they happen without knowing or recollection.
To help better understand the dreams you might be having, let’s try to understand the basics of dreams right here.
What Is A Dream?
A dream is state of consciousness that we experience when we are asleep. A dream can be an image, a thought or a feeling. Visual images are the most common features of a dream, but also sounds, tastes and smells can feature too. You might be interested to know that some people dream in full colour, while others dream only in black and white.
Dreaming is involuntary, and the content of your dreams may be totally illogical and absurd.
They are strongest during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of your sleep. At the time of dreaming, the content can feel very real. Some dreams can be completely remembered and retold once you wake up, whereas others are completely forgotten.
Why Do We Dream?
Even though our bodies go to sleep each night to regulate our physiological functions, our brains are still active. Therefore, it is thought that the emotional centres of our brains trigger thoughts, which then become dreams.
There are many ideas and views on why we sleep. In his studies, Sigmund Freud suggested that dreams are wishes that we have formed during our waking lives. While, Swedish Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Antti Revonsuo’s theory explored whether dreams are to proactively learn survival scenarios while sleeping. Both theories are fascinating, but the truth is that nobody really knows why we dream or the role they have in our lives.
Other theories about the purpose of dreams include;
Building Your Memory
Dreaming may serve as a cognitive function to strengthen your memory and information recall as you sleep. The dreams you have may help to better embed certain useful memories as well as get rid of other bad or unimportant memories that you don’t need any longer.
An Act of Therapy
Your dreams may also be considered as a way of giving therapy to yourself. They might help you to work through certain emotional traumas or issues that you have experienced or are experiencing now. When you sleep, your brain operates at a more emotional level, therefore, it could be a better time to work through feelings than when you are awake.
Another theory is that dreaming helps to stimulate your creative capabilities, with artists, poets and writers being inspired by their dreams to create some of their most impressive work. There are no restrictive barriers when you’re sleeping, so your thoughts have free reign to explore.
Perhaps you have awakened at times with the most amazing business idea or solution to a problem that you have been thinking about for ages?
There are various factors that could influence your dreams and the effect they have on your sleep, which we will touch on in the future. However, if you are finding that lots of dreams are causing disruption to your sleep, there may be ways you can improve your sleep environment and bedtime routine to go to sleep feeling more relaxed.