Despite extensive research, we still don’t fully understand why people dream. Some of the most well-known theories contend that dreaming gives us a means to express our desires or practice dealing with obstacles while also assisting us in processing memories and emotions.
How Do Dreams Work?
The visuals, ideas, and feelings that are experienced while sleeping are included in a dream. Dreams can be incredibly vivid or emotional or they can be incredibly vague, ephemeral, perplexing, or even boring. While many dreams seem to make no sense at all, other times they seem to have a distinct storyline.
Although there are many unanswered questions regarding dreams and sleep, scientists do know that almost everyone dreams every time they sleep, for a total of roughly two hours each night, whether or not they recall it when they wake up.
Beyond the specifics of a given dream, there is the broader issue of why we even dream. The most popular theories regarding the meaning of dreams are discussed below, along with examples of how these theories might be used to interpret particular dreams.
The Function of Dreams
According to some of the more well-known dream theories, dreams serve the following purposes:
- Assemble memories
- Processing feeling
- Describe our fervent aspirations
- Get comfortable with potential threats.
Many specialists think that rather than just one specific explanation, we dream for a combination of various causes. In addition, while many studies concur that having dreams is crucial for maintaining one’s mental, physical, and emotional health, others contend that dreams have no meaningful function at all.
The truth is that, despite the numerous hypotheses that have been put up, there is still no clear-cut agreement on why we dream.
Dreaming may also have distinct functions depending on the stage of sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is when dreams are at their most vivid, and these are the dreams we’re most likely to remember. Non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep also allows us to dream, however these dreams are generally less vivid and have fewer interesting themes.
Dreams Can Be a Mirror of the Unconscious
According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams, unconscious drives, wishes, and wants are represented in dreams. The dream rebound effect, also known as the dream rebound theory, is the idea that suppressing a thought tends to cause dreams about it, despite the fact that many of Freud’s claims have been disproved.
What Leads to Dreams Taking Place?
Freud stated that dreams are “disguised fulfilments of repressed wishes” in “The Interpretation of Dreams.” He also discussed the visible content (real visuals) and latent content, two distinct aspects of dreams (hidden meaning).
Dreams are Information Processing
The activation-synthesis model of dreaming postulates that during REM sleep, brain circuits become activated, causing the amygdala and hippocampus to produce a variety of electrical impulses. This theory was first put forth by J. Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley.
This leads to a collection of haphazard ideas, pictures, and memories that surface during dreaming.
When we wake up, our active minds piece together the many dream imagery and memory shards to form a coherent story.
According to the activation-synthesis theory, dreams are a collection of random events that come to the sleeping mind and are put together meaningfully when we wake. In this way, dreams might spur the dreamer to form fresh associations, generate clever insights, or experience creative epiphanies in their waking lives.
Assistance in Memory by Dreams
The information-processing theory states that sleep enables us to organise and process all of the data and memories that we have gathered over the course of the day. Some dream researchers contend that dreaming is a result of this experience processing, or perhaps an active component of it.
According to this idea, also referred to as the self-organization theory of dreaming, dreaming is a by-product of the brain’s neuronal activity as memories are solidified while we sleep.
It has been proposed that memories are either reinforced or weakened during this process of unconscious information transfer. The self-organization theory of dreaming postulates that throughout dreams, valuable memories become stronger while less useful ones go.
This theory is supported by research that shows complex tasks perform better when a person dreams about completing them. Low-frequency theta waves were more active in the frontal lobe during REM sleep, according to studies, just as they are when people are learning, storing, and remembering information while awake.
Dreams Are a Mirror of Your Life
According to the continuity hypothesis, dreams reflect a person’s waking life by including conscious experiences.
Dreams appear as a mosaic of memories rather than a straightforward reproduction of waking reality.
However, research suggests that whereas REM sleep involves more emotional and educational memories, non-REM sleep may be more associated with declarative memory (the more mundane things). Compared to non-REM dreams, REM dreams are typically simpler to remember.
The continuity theory postulates that memories in our dreams may be deliberately broken up in order to better retain new information and experiences. However, there are still a lot of unanswered concerns about why certain memories are more or less prominent in our minds than others.
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