Dreams are thoughts, images, feelings and sounds that are experienced during sleep. Occurring during REM stage sleep, it is thought that dreams can make up around a quarter of a typical night’s sleep – taking up around two hours. Individual dreams experienced during this time may last for a couple of minutes to up to twenty minutes.
While dreams can be particularly vivid and fresh in the memory on waking, or forgettable to the point of never being recalled, it is thought that we dream every night.
Although dreams are a nightly occurrence, surprisingly little is known about them from a scientific or physiological standpoint. There are many heavily researched and credible theories into why we dream and what purpose dreams fulfil, but there remains no general consensus on the issue. Perhaps because of their mysterious nature, dreams have played a key role in many spiritual and new age belief systems.
The interpretation of dreams is a complex and varied practice, and ranges from scientifically-orientated approaches to some distinctly speculative suggestions based on paranormal or fantasy ideas. Common beliefs of dream meanings include; attributing certain connotations to dreaming about different things, ‘wish fulfilment’, pre-emptive warnings or prophecies, spiritual contact, and simply replaying notable events of the day in the mind.
The concept of decoding dreams isn’t a modern practice – it can be found in some of the earliest recorded writings from all over the world. Some of the most influential psychologists in history, famously including Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, have developed theories into what dreams represent.
Despite the time and effort devoted to furthering our understanding of dreams over thousands of years, they remain as elusive and mystifying as ever.