Why do we dream?
Little is known about how the human brain operates during sleep.
Within the subject of sleep, one thing that is often debated amongst researchers and scientists is dreams.
Although there is no definitive answer, as to why we dream there are several theories which have been researched. Some theories point towards our emotions and that dreams reflect our feelings during waking hours. Other researchers believe that dreams don't really serve any purpose at all. And some theories suggest that dreams are simply the brain’s way of winding down, processing and sorting, of filing certain memories and deleting others - you could say that dreams are the brain’s housework. When you think of the dreams you have, you can see this process at work. Often your dreams will contain elements of the previous day and other more distant memories. This is the brain connecting old and new memories together, processing and tagging them so that in the future it can recall them and make those connections.
While the correct interpretation of dreams is still open for debate, it is widely accepted that everyone dreams and the majority of these take place at night during REM sleep (rapid-eye movement). It is not uncommon to forget a dream and the amount of dreams remembered can vary greatly from person to person.
Dreams and their meanings
Dreams are often seemingly random, but in fact, there is more structure and commonality than most of us would imagine. This is not just within each individual but across all humans as well. In fact, researchers have proposed that there are 20 common dream themes that reappear in people’s dreams all the time. They are:
• Flying, either on your own or in an airplane.
• Forgetting to study for an exam, or fumbling your lines for a presentation, speech or play.
• Being naked in public.
• Finding yourself paralysed or partially or totally restricted in movement, often people will be trying to run away but are not able to move fast enough.
• Being chased or kidnapped.
• Having sexual encounters, including overt references to heterosexual or homosexual acts.
• Experiencing natural disasters like earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, floods and volcanoes.
• Experiencing manmade disasters like terrorist acts, nuclear war, explosions, fire, chemical contamination, or plane crashes.
• Losing your teeth.
• Violent threats, attack or injuries to self or others.
• Rejection, betrayal abandonment, or shame.
• Driving in cars.
• Missing a train bus or plane.
• Discovering new and unexpected rooms in houses or buildings.
• Finding or losing money.
• Having people appear from your past.
• Returning to a childhood home, school or setting from childhood.
• Being pregnant and giving birth.
• Meeting unknown people.
The meaning of dreams or the interpretation of what they mean isn’t as straightforward as you would imagine with scientists, astrologists, and psychiatrists often having differing views. Nevertheless, there are some very common reoccurring dreams that we all keep having and this is supported in the answers submitted in our recent competition.
Incredibly common and often occurs when a person is feeling overwhelmed in life.
This dream is often associated with freedom, liberation, or completion of something in your life.
Teeth Falling Out
Another common dream but this time with a number of meanings. Some believe this dream represent a bad omen or a broken relationship, whereas others a symbol of power. Another theory suggests that if women dream their teeth are failing out it is a desire to become pregnant and for men it is a desire for sexual stimulation.
Believed to represent a lack of control in one’s life.
Not necessarily a fear of being chased but what you are running from.
Dreaming of a baby is believed to represent newness in our life.
Importance of dreams
As little as we understand our dreams, they have always been an important part of our lives. We use the term to describe our hopes and ambitions, which shows how central these enigmatic and confusing apparitions are.
Trying to interpret your dreams as you have read is very difficult with no common agreement. However, there are a few things that your dreams might be telling you.
1. You have a fever. Being feverish can increase dreaming and, in particular, it can increase nightmares so if you are dreaming more or having more nightmares then you may have a fever.
2. You are stressed. Stress can often increase dream activity as well. Stress dreams will quite often involve the issue that is stressing you so if you find this is happening then you need to de-stress as it is not a good sign.
3. You have low blood sugar. Low blood sugar is another cause of increased dreaming, again mostly nightmares.
4. You are pregnant. Being pregnant can cause a rise in dreaming, though not of nightmares. This is related to blood sugar levels, which change when a woman is pregnant.
How to remember your dreams
Some people can never remember the dreams they have had. If this is you, there are a number of different techniques and tricks you can use to help you. The first one is to spend a few minutes every night sitting and writing out the day’s events. Write in the present tense, as if it is happening to you right now. By doing this each and every night, you are encouraging the brain to remember. Then, when you wake in the morning you need to do the same thing with your dreams. Write down as much as you can and write it in the present tense as if it were happening right now. By doing this each and every day you will train your brain to remember and in time you will be able to recall your dreams with increasing fidelity.
Another way to remember your dreams is through the power of suggestion. Pick a phrase like ‘I remember my dreams’ and say it to yourself as many times a day as you can. Amazingly this actually works and after a while you will remember your dreams better.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and that it has enlightened you on why we dream and what your dreams possibly mean. Finally we must say that if your dreams are resulting in a change in behaviour or constant recurring dreams are having a negative impact on your life, you may want to visit your Doctor who will investigate the issue further.
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