Although people have been dreaming for centuries, and some try to analyze our dreams in order to understand them, it wasn’t until recently the neuroscientists have conducted concentrate studies on why we dream.
We all have awakened from sleep with a memory of something we dreamt. Some of our dreams are spiritual and pleasant, while others are bizarre to the point of being absurd. Many scientists believe that our dreams are an extension of our waking lives, while others say they fill in for feelings we have suppressed.
We know from recent research that our brains process information from our conscious memory when we are sleeping, or in our unconscious state. In that process, where do the dreams take over? We know that our mind is the most active when we are in our REM stage of sleep, and that is when we dream the most. Does the process of encoding our memory end up as a dream, something we can visualize on another level?
Scientists have come up with a few theories, and here are five reasons they give as to why we dream.
1. Processing Information and Memory
Sleep is fundamental to a well functioning brain and memory. If we are deprived of sleep we experience all sorts of mental and physical problems. It is the period of time when you brain actually is the most active, and when memory is consolidated.
Some research suggests that the key to memory consolidation is not just letting your brain rest, but in the dreams we have. Most dreams interweave our recent experiences and associations, which may be your brain processing and organizing the conscious and unconscious stimuli it has taken in throughout the day. After your daily memories have been consolidated by your dreams, your brain gets a chance to refresh itself. Dreams could be the brain’s way of “rebooting the system.”
2. As a Coping Mechanism
The inner turmoil you are going through in your waking hours does not stop when you go to sleep. As you deal with stressful situations your dreams sometimes reflect you inner feelings. They try to help you cope with your problems by establishing some kind of relevance.
According to Psychiatry Professor Ernest Hartmann, M.D. , dreams are directed by particular emotions, like stress. “Varying emotions cause new material to be constantly “weaved” into the memory of the dreamer in ways that help him or her cope with stress, trauma and other types of psychological anxiety.”
3. Wish Fulfillment
Do you find it strange that your dreams are always about you – your hopes, fears, angers, associations, etc.? That is because they typically are a reflection of your deepest concerns or wishes. Your subconscious can uncover things your conscious mind has repressed. For example: You may be driving a racecar made of cheese. This may be crazy, but your subconscious may simply be telling you that you would like to drive a racecar, and have Kraft foods sponsor it. Dream interpretation is a different “science” in itself.
Sigmund Freud’s influential book, The Interpretation of Dreams, suggests that dreams are the direct result of repressed emotions and they might represent unconscious thoughts, wishes or desires.
Famed psychologist Carl Jung believed that our dreams, even our most creative ones, are compensation for events in our waking lives. He also suggested that our dreams by reflect portions of our personality that have not developed fully. This could explain dreams that show a personality trait that is much different from the one we have in our waking hours.
For example: Someone who is unhappy in their waking life may have dreams of bliss and romance in their dreams. Or, a person who is successful may have dreams of losing their fortune.
People often say, “Don’t lose sleep over it,” when they see someone confronted with a difficult situation. This is so true, and you may want to get more. Sleep can be used as a time your brain is able to solve your problems. Sometimes you just have to walk away and take a break, which is what sleep is, and your problem will solve itself. Dreams can help us in tackling our everyday problems.
We draw upon information we already know when we try to solve problems. Dreaming is especially helpful because it helps organize and consolidate memories, making it easier to access when we’re problem solving.
So if you’re facing a particularly difficult problem, go ahead and sleep on it. It might actually help.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life. His CDs and memory products are also available online at BrainAthlete.com.
Fit & Health — Why do we dream? http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/sleep/dreams/why-do-we-dream.htm