Why We Dream? It’s Time to Unravel the Mystery of Dreaming
11-05-2017 | Posted By: Kumkum Sharma | 2109 View(s)
Dream, it is one of the most exciting experiences in our lives. Dreams can be fascinating, exciting, creative, sad, weird or even scary. Most people love to dream as dreams many times are fun and entertaining. But why we dream? This is a question which is asked by many individuals and scientists are still trying to discover the reasons for Dreaming.
What are Dreams?
Dreams are the images and stories created by our mind while we sleep. They can be vivid and can make us feel happy, sad, or even scared. We can dream anytime during our sleep. However, usually, we dream during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when our brain is most active. Dreams can seem either completely rational or confusing. Experts say that we dream at least 4 to 6 times per night and each dream lasts between 5 to 20 minutes.
Why we Dream?
There are many theories about why we dream, but nobody knows for sure. Some believe that dreams play an important part in our lives, while others think that they are just some meaningless activities of the brain. Many researchers say that dreams are essential for our physical, mental and emotional health.
A study was conducted to see the link between dream and well-being of the people. In the study, the researchers woke up the subjects just when they were going into REM sleep. The researchers found that the subjects who were asked to wake up and were not allowed to dream experienced: Anxiety, Depression, Tension, Hallucination, Lack of coordination & Concentration and Weight Gain. Thus, it can be said that dreams are vital for our overall health. Now, let us see the reasons as to why we dream.
There are many reasons and theories as to why we dream. Some of the reasons are listed below:
1. We Dream to Fulfil Our Wishes
Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalysis, believed that our dreams are a window to our soul. According to him, dreams reveal a person’s unconscious desires, thoughts, feelings and motivations. In other words, dreams are a reflection of our subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind lies below the level of conscious awareness. The subconscious mind records everything that we do such as activities we engage in, our thoughts and emotions related to those activities, our likes and dislikes, etc. Our subconscious mind has a significant influence on how we think and act in the conscious state.
Freud analysed the dreams of many of his patients and then came up with this theory that dreams are a way to fulfil the wishes. Dreams are the way to get something that we really want, either literally or symbolically. Freud believed that it doesn’t matter if the dream is good or a bad one, the dream will always be related to our hidden desires and wishes.
For instance, say a boy dreamt about the death of his mother. Now, this is a sad and a disturbing dream. But how is it related to wish fulfilment? Well, maybe, because the boy has a conflict with his mother. The child does not want his mother to be dead. He just intends to deal with the conflict which would be resolved if the mother was out of the picture.
And so, it was believed by Freud that dreams helped people to handle those hidden emotions that they are not able to deal with. Also, say a girl wishes to have a new dress, and she is not able to buy it due to a financial crisis. The girl may have a dream where she sees herself wearing that beautiful dress. The dress is the hidden desire of the girl which will be seen in the dream.
2. Conversion of Short-Term Memories to Long-term Memories
Dreams are not just randomly created stories by our mind. Perhaps, there is a reason as to why we dream. Jie Zhang, a psychiatrist, proposed a theory of dreaming called as a continual-activation theory. The theory suggests that our brain stores memories even when we are asleep. Storing memories is one of the brain’s functions that is done on a regular basis.
However, dreams are a part of “temporary storage” i.e. area of consciousness, a spot where people hold memories before they move them from short-term to long-term storage. These memories then flash through our mind as dreams and help us to retain that memory and transfer it to long-term storage.
3. Consolidates Memories
Theories suggest that dreams help us in retaining what we have learned. Most people are aware that sleep is essential for a healthy mind and memory. However, many researchers suggest that it is not few hours of rest, but dreams that help in memory consolidation. Many times we dream about the recent events and incidents that we have experienced. For instance, maybe you dreamt about that trade fair you went last week, or you had a dream about the painting you bought a few days ago.
These kinds of dreams indicate that the brain processes and organises the conscious and unconscious stimuli it receives all day long. When the dreams consolidate the daily memories, the brain gets a chance to refresh itself and helps you to retain the memories and information. Thus, another answer to why we dream is that it helps in the consolidation of all the memories.
4. Solving Problems
Studies suggest that people can solve problems in a better way when they are dreaming. It is a known fact that sleep and dreams have a positive effect on memories, but very few people know that dreams can also help in solving everyday problems in life. Experts say that when we face any obstacle, we try to get all the information that we already know i.e. our memories to resolve the problem. In this case, dreams are helpful as they help in organising and consolidating memories, and makes it easier to access all the information. Thus with the easy access of all the information, we can solve problems.
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Some experts also suggest that when we sleep, our brain keeps processing problematic issues of our lives and continually attempt to come up with solutions and answers. So, if you are facing a difficult situation, go ahead and sleep on it. It can help you!
5. Coping Mechanism
When we deal with stressful situations, our dreams also become different and reflect our inner feelings. Dreams display significant soothing symbols and issues which are related to our waking life so that one can cope with their inner turmoil.
Psychiatrists suggest that our dreams are influenced by specific emotions, like stress, happiness and worry. The varying emotions cause new images and thoughts to be constantly “weaved” into the memory of the dreamer in such a way that helps him or her cope with stress or any other type of mental activity.
Some Interesting Facts about Dreams
1. Around 90% of the dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed.
2. Dreaming helps in learning and developing long-term memories.
3. Dream quality is affected by alcohol.
4. When you are dreaming, you cannot read or tell the time.
5. There is a concept named ‘Lucid Dreaming’ in which we know we are dreaming in our dream. People who are lucid dreamers can alter their dreams.
6. Animals also dream.
7. Blind People Also Dream
8. In our dreams, we see only those faces that we already know
9. Some people dream in colour, while some in ‘black’ and ‘white’.
10. Dreams usually have negative emotions as compared to positive ones.
Dreams are fascinating, and people must not be horrified when they see scary dreams. Dreams are just part of our subconscious mind and are not so realistic. They are just our repressed feelings, desires and emotions. Our quality of sleep also affects our dreams. Thus, make sure to have a good night sleep so that you have interesting dreams.