Why do we dream?

Although many theories, facts and explanations surround dreaming, it remains quite an unknown phenomenon. Why do we dream? Do we all dream? How can we remember our dreams? To answer this question, I will delve a little deeper into the possible reasons surrounding our dreams.

Desires:

Some believe that our dreams reveal the secrets of our deepest wishes and desires.

Interpretation:

Dreaming could be our body’s way of interpreting signals from the brain and body during sleep.

Process:

Another – and entirely legitimate – claim is that our dreams represent how we process the information we gather during the day.

Self Therapy:

Our dreams are a form of psychotherapy.

Much speculation remain surrounding the exact science behind dreams. However, recent research is opening many doors of plausible speculation. Although we cannot be entirely assured, findings have given us more in-depth insight into the matter. It is widely believed that the following statements are quite accurate:

  • Dreams are a form of memory processing. This offline capability will intrigue the tech nerds among you.
  • Much like gaming, our dreams could represent a simulation of the experiences that we have.
  • Dreams are stages of our consciousness that are constructed in three different temporal parts: how we experience the present, our reflection of the past and our prediction for the future.

The Five Stages of Sleep

To better understand our dreams, we also have to look at sleep stages. Not only is it fascinating to learn about the levels of sleep that we experience during the night, but it also provides valuable insight into when we start dreaming. Sleep makes up a vital part of our lives. It is so crucial to our existence, that we spend about a third of our lives asleep. But, there is a lot more to this essential state of rest, than meets the eye. Scientists have discovered that we have five unique and important cycles of sleep:

  1. The first stage makes up 4-5% of our sleep and is quite light. During this stage, the activity in our muscles slows and so does our eye movement.
  2. Stage two is where we drift into the abyss. This part of our sleep consumes around 45-55. During phase two, there is a complete stop in eye movement with a distinct lull in our brainwaves with sporadic bursts called sleep spindles.
  3. Stage three lasts between 4-6% with very low brain activity. During this sleep stage, delta waves appear with a reduction in muscle activity.
  4. Stage four is where things get deep, very deep. During this part – 12-15% – our brains produce delta waves on an almost exclusive basis. Your sleep during this cycle is so deep that you will experience disorientation and grogginess for several minutes if awake.
  5. Lastly, but not the least, we come to the cycle of your dreams, literally. This part of your sleeping cycle is called REM sleep. During REM, your breathing becomes very shallow, rapid and unusual. Eyes can jerk with rapid movements while muscles become temporarily paralysed (this sounds a little scarier than it should). During this stage, your body will see a rise in heart rate and increased blood pressure.   

Lucid Dreams

If you think for a moment, many of you might recall something very notable about past dreams; something conscious. You were aware of the fact that you were dreaming. No, you’re not going crazy, and you are also not dreaming that you are mindful of the fact that you are in a dream. What you are experiencing is something quite familiar and intriguing. If you are aware of a dream while within it, you are actually going through a period in-between REM sleep and being awake, called lucid dreaming. During this phase, certain parts of your brain that are inactive during deep sleep, become active. However, there is even more. Certain individuals can take their lucid dreams to the next step. They can dictate the direction of the dream. Although this can be a very effective natural remedy against nightmares, dream experts believe it is healthier to let your dreams take their course. Although it is nicer to dream what you desire, it is healthier to phase out your body’s natural reason for certain dreams.

Remembering Dreams

Even though you might not fully recall so, it is generally considered that humans have around three to six dreams per night. It is also thought that, individually, our dreams last between five to twenty minutes. The question remains. Is it possible to find a way to remember the dreams that dwell only in our subconscious? The short answer is yes; there might be ways for enhanced recall to a certain extent. Below are a few simple steps to recall your dreams:

No Alarm

You have, no doubt, experienced the sheer, agonising and dream jolting sensation of waking up due to an alarm. Some might loathe it so much that it is seen as a form of self-torture. This negative connotation towards a signal is something that can hamper your wishes of remembering a dream. The sudden shock and negative emotion is very likely to cause an instant attention diversion. Your alarm is there for a reason; your mind knows that. The moment you awaken, your attention diverts to the action you have to complete to stop the nuisance. Although it isn’t viable to sleep without an alarm during a work week, you can start by paying more attention to your body’s way of waking you up on the weekend. You might remember something.

Conscious About Remembering

A straightforward way of remembering your dreams is actually to remind yourself to do so. As is the case with many things in life, if we take a conscious step to do something, we have a much bigger chance of doing so. The active mental stimulation of telling yourself that you should be on the lookout for dreams and remember what happened in them will help you better recall what happened. It’s as easy as that.

Dream on Repeat

Another simple way of easily remembering a dream is to repeat it to yourself. We frequently wake up with a good recollection of individual dreams. When this happens, try to reply to the dream in your mind; almost as though you recorded it. You will find that using this repetition method, will help you to recall more information than you initially had.

Dream Diary

Making notes about your dreams is a very effective way of remembering what happened. A journal can also be a fascinating and personal way of tracking your dreams. A critical consideration to stick by is not to judge yourself based on your visions. It is very common that a dream will not conform to standards set by society.

Dream Names

A highly effective method of remembering anything is to title it. A title will allow your brain to open a path of information association quickly. If you label your dreams in this fashion, you are more likely to remember what transpired within them.

Conclusion

Dreams have been part of us since the earliest times. It is one of the most common similarities between us and those who lived centuries before us. Although science has paved the way for us to understand better and explain certain parts of the brain, we will likely never truly discover all of the facts surrounding dreams. The human mind is infinitely complex and diverse, a doorway to fantasy, creation and mystery.

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