Who hasn’t had someone say to them, “I had this weird dream last night?”
And who hasn’t thought, “Well, aren’t all dreams weird?”
Why do we dream and what do they mean?
As questions go, these are good ones. As answers go, there are mainly theories, but research continues.
Consider all the input your brain receives on any given day; it’s hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of bits of information that penetrate our human hard drives during our waking hours. One theory is that dreams allow us to sort through all that stimuli and decide what to retain as long-term memory and what to discard.
Yet another theory posits that dreams help us deal with our emotions. Indeed, the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, thought dreams were a glimpse into our subconscious. All day long, our brains focus on the tasks at hand, preparing for an important meeting or, say, building a piece of furniture. But at night, our brains relax from that sharp focus and allow emotions to bubble up. For example, say there’s talk of your company downsizing. During the workday, you’re likely focused on what you can do to keep from being laid off, or on what you will do if you are laid off. At night, those concerns could be translated into a dream about your shrunken self navigating your way in a land of giants.
Both anecdotal evidence from creative people and scientific research suggest dreams help with sorting out creative problems. One study of musicians found the artists dream frequently, and nearly half the music they recalled dreaming about was unfamiliar to them, suggesting they may be composing in their dreams. Paul McCartney credited his composition of the Beatles hit “Yesterday” to a dream. Poet Williams Blake and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman claimed to have relied on dreams as the genesis of much of their creative output. Golfer Jack Nicklaus is said to have worked out a problem with his golf swing in a dream.
While some researchers think dreams are just the random, meaningless firings of a brain at rest, we all dream, on average four to six times per night, according to some scientists. Most dreams occur during the REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, sleep stage. This is when the sleeping brain is most active. And while we dream every night, why do we not always remember dreams? It’s likely we remember the dreams we have just before we wake up. People who get up through the night are more likely to remember some of their dreams than those who sleep straight through until morning.
Lucid dreams, those in which we dream that we are aware that we are dreaming, are thought to occur in that sleep stage between REM and waking up.
Some dreams we want to forget. It is thought that nightmares are usually caused by stress or anxiety.
But, if you want to remember your dreams, here are some tips that may help.
- Wake up naturally, without an alarm clock. The alarm sound jolts your mind awake and your dream memory is gone.
- If you think about the dream right after waking, it may be easier to recall throughout the day.
- Before going to sleep, remind yourself that you want to remember your dreams come morning.
- If you really want to make sense of your dreams, perhaps keep a dream journal.
- Keep a notebook and pen by your bed and write down any dreams you can remember when you first wake up.
- Dreams can be odd, but don’t judge or censor yourself.
- Give each dream a title. It may help you understand more about it later.
From your friends at Sleep Outfitters, we hope your dreams are sweet dreams. If they aren’t, come see us. Maybe we can help.