What Are Dreams?
Dreams are basically stories and images our mind creates while we sleep. Dreams can be vivid. They can make you feel happy, sad, or scared. And they may seem confusing or perfectly rational.
Dreams can occur anytime during sleep. But most vivid dreams occur during deep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when the brain is most active. Some experts say we dream at least four to six times per night.
Why Do We Dream?
There are many theories about why we dream, but no one knows for sure. Some researchers say dreams have no purpose or meaning and are nonsensical activities of the sleeping brain. Others say dreams are necessary for mental, emotional, and physical health.
Studies have shown the importance of dreams to our health and well-being. In one study, researchers woke subjects just as they were drifting off into REM sleep. They found that those who were not allowed to dream experienced:
· Increased tension
· Difficulty concentrating
· Lack of coordination
· Weight gain
· Tendency to hallucinate
Many experts say that dreams exist to:
· Help solve problems in our lives
· Incorporate memories
· Process emotions
If you go to bed with a troubling thought, you may wake with a solution, or at least feel better about the situation.
Sigmund Freud believed dreams are a window into our subconscious. He believed they reveal a person's:
· Unconscious desires
Freud thought dreams were a way for people to satisfy urges and desires that were unacceptable to society.
Perhaps there is merit with all these theories. Some dreams may help our brains process our thoughts and the events of the day. Others may just be the result of normal brain activity and mean very little, if anything. Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why we dream.
What Do Dreams Mean?
Just as there are varying opinions as to why we dream, there are also different views as to what dreams mean. Some experts say dreams have no connection to our real emotions or thoughts. They are just strange stories that don't relate to normal life.
Others say our dreams may reflect our own underlying thoughts and feelings -- our deepest desires, fears, and concerns, especially recurring dreams. By interpreting our dreams, we may be able to gain insight into our lives and ourselves. Many people say they have come up with their best ideas while dreaming, so dreams may be a conduit of creativity.
Often people report having similar dreams -- they are being chased, fall off a cliff, or appear in public naked. These types of dreams are likely caused by a hidden stress or anxiety. While the dreams may be similar, experts say the meaning behind the dream is unique to each person.
Therefore, many experts say not to rely on books or "dream dictionaries," which give a specific meaning for a specific dream image or symbol. The particular reason behind your dream is unique to you.
Although scientists can't say for sure what dreams mean and why we dream, many people find meaning in their dreams.
Why Do Nightmares Occur?
Nightmares, or bad dreams, are common in children and adults. Often nightmares are caused by:
· Stress, conflict, and fear
· Emotional problems
· Medication or drug use
If you have a recurring nightmare, your subconscious may be trying to tell you something. Listen to it. If you can't figure out why you are having bad dreams, and you continue to have them, talk to a qualified mental health care provider. They may be able to help you figure out what is causing your nightmares and provide tips to put you at ease.
Keep in mind that no matter how scary a nightmare is, it is not real and most likely will not happen to you in real life.
What Are Lucid Dreams?
Have you ever had a dream where you knew you were dreaming during your dream? This is called a lucid dream. Research has shown that lucid dreaming is accompanied by an increased activation of parts of the brain that are normally suppressed during sleep. Lucid dreaming represents a brain state between REM sleep and being awake.
Some people who are lucid dreamers are able to influence the direction of their dream, changing the story so to speak. While this may be a good tactic to take, especially during a nightmare, many dream experts say it is better to let your dreams occur naturally.
Can Dreams Predict the Future?
There are many examples of situations where a dream came true or was telling of a future event. When you have a dream that then plays out in real life, experts say it is most likely due to:
· Faulty memory
· An unconscious tying together of known information
However, sometimes dreams can motivate you to act a certain way, thus changing the future.