Dream is defined in Webster's Dictionary as a "sequence of sensations, images, thoughts, etc., passing through a sleeping person's mind" . Dreams have been a topic of study dating back to 4000 B.C. One may say that dreams have been around as long as the first civilization came to be and are just a normal part of human existence.
Dreams can be understood in the the context of repressed thoughts. Dreaming serves as an outlet for those thoughts and impulses we repress during the day. When we go to sleep at night and slip into our dream state, we feel liberated and behave and act in a manner that we do not allow ourselves in our waking life.
Visions and ideas can come from your dreams. Authors, screenwriters and poets turn to their dreams for stories. Artists and musicians explore dreams for their inspiration. Dreams can help us find solutions to our daily problems and see things from a different perspective.
Dream interpretations date back to 3000-4000 B.C., where they were documented on clay tablets. For as long as we have been able to talk about our dreams, we have been fascinated with them and have strived to understand them.
In some primal societies, members were unable to distinguish between the dream world and the waking world. Or they could simply choose not to make the distinction.
Greek philosopher, Aristotle believed that dreams were a result of physiological functions. Dreams were able to diagnose illness and predict onset of diseases.
In the Greek and Roman eras, dreams were seen in a religious context. They were believed to be direct messages from the gods or from the dead. The people of that time look to their dreams for solutions on what to do or what course of action to take. They believed dreams forewarned and predicted the future. Special shrines were even built where people can go there to sleep in hopes that a message could be passed to them through their dreams. Their belief in the power of a dream was so strong that it even dictated the actions of political and military leaders. In fact, dream interpreters even accompanied military leaders into battle to help with war strategy.
During the Helllenistic period, the main focus of dreams was centered around its ability to heal. Temples, called Asclepieions, were built around the healing power of dreams. It was believed that sick people who slept in these temples would be sent cures through their dreams. Dream interpreters even aided the medicine men in their medical diagnosis. It was believed that dreams offered a vital clue for healers to finding what was wrong with the dreamer.
Egyptians In Egypt, priests also acted as dream interpreters. The recorded their dreams in hieroglyphics. People with particular vivid and significant dreams were believed to be blessed and were considered special. People who had the power to interpret dreams were looked up to and seen as divinely gifted.
Dreaming can be seen as an actual place that your spirit and soul leaves every night to go and visit. The Chinese believed that the soul leaves the body to go into this world. However, if they should be suddenly awakened, their soul may fail to return to the body. For this reason, some Chinese today, are wary of alarm clocks. Some Native American tribes and Mexican civilizations share this same notion of a distinct dream dimension. They believed that their ancestors lived in their dreams and take on non-human forms like plants. They see that dreams as a way of visiting and having contact with their ancestors. Dreams also helped to point their mission or role in life.
During the Middle Ages, dreams were seen as evil and its images were temptations from the devil. In the vulnerable sleep state, the devil was believed to fill the mind of humans with poisonous thoughts. He did his dirty work though dreams attempting to mislead us down a wrong path.
In the early 19th century, dreams were dismissed as stemming from anxiety, a household noise or even indigestion. Hence there was really no meaning to it. Later on in the 19th century, Sigmund Freud revived the importance of dreams and its significance and need for interpretation. He revolutionized the study of dreams.
Tracing back to these ancient cultures, people had always had an inclination to interpret dreams The bible alone has over seven hundred references to dreams.
One sleep cycle comprises of four stages and lasts for about 90-120 minutes. However there are some books that list five stages in the sleep cycle. These books consider the first five to ten minutes when you are falling asleep as a stage in the sleep cycle. We think this is more of a transitional phase and not really part of the cycle. While the other stages of sleep repeat themselves throughout the night, this phase of sleep does not. For this reason, we have excluded as part of the cycle.
Dreams can occur in any of the four stages of sleep, but the most vivid and memorable dreams occur in the last stage of sleep (also commonly referred to as REM sleep). The sleep cycle repeats itself about an average of four to five times per night, but may repeat as many as seven times. Thus, you can see how a person has several different dreams in one night. However, most people only remember dreams that occur closer toward the morning when they are about to wake up. But just because you can't remember those dreams do not mean that they never happened. Some people believe that they simply do not dream, when in reality, they just don't remember their dreams.
Stage 1: You are entering into light sleep. This stage is characterized by Non-rapid eye movements (NREM), muscle relaxation, lowered body temperature and slowed heart rate. The body is preparing to enter into deep sleep.
Stage 2: Also characterized by NREM, this stage is characterized by a further drop in body temperature and relaxation of the muscles. The body's immune system goes to work on repairing the day's damage. The endocrine glands secrete growth hormones, while blood is sent to the muscles to be reconditioned. In this stage, you are completely asleep.
Stage 3: Still in the NREM stage, this is an even deeper sleep. Your metabolic levels are extremely slow.
Stage 4: In this stage of sleep, your eyes move back and forth erratically as if watching something from underneath your eyelids. Referred to as REM sleep or delta sleep, this stage occurs at about 90-100 minutes after the onset of sleep. Your blood pressure rises, heart rate speeds up, respiration becomes erratic and brain activity increases. Your involuntary muscles also become paralyzed or immobilized. This stage is the most restorative part of sleep. Your mind is being revitalized and emotions is being fine tuned. The majority of your dreaming occurs in this stage. If you are awakened during this stage of sleep, you are more likely to remember your dreams.
These stages repeat themselves throughout the night as you sleep. As the cycle repeats, you will spend less time in stages 1 to 3 and more time dreaming in stage 4. In other words, it will be quicker and quicker for you to get to stage 4 each time the cycle repeats.
While you are dreaming, your body undergoes noticeable changes. Your adrenaline rises, your blood pressure increases, and you heart beats faster. Given this hyperactivity, it should be no surprise how someone with a weak heart can die in their sleep. Their heart may not be able to withstand the strain and the erratic changes that their body is going through.
Dreaming takes place during REM, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement. It is thus called, because your eyes move rapidly back and forth under the eyelids. REM sleep takes place in the fourth stage of sleep and accounts for 15-20% of your sleep time. From the point you fall asleep, it takes 30 to 90 minutes before you start dreaming. You cycle through the 4 stages of sleep and may enter the REM stage 4 to 7 times in one night. During REM, your blood pressure and heart rate fluctuate and increase. It sounds like your body is going through a lot, but in fact, it is quite the contrary. During REM, your bodies are completely immobile and your muscles
remain completely relaxed. You may shift in your bed throughout the night, but when in REM, you are completely still. This is commonly known as "REM Paralysis".
In REM sleep, the mind is as active as it is during waking . However, chemically it is different. REM is controlled by the excitability level of the cholinergic neruons. Noradrenaline and seratonin are missing in the brain when in the dream state. These chemicals allow the brain to carry out task, solve problems and remember things. This is a reason why you find it so hard to remember your dreams.
Do you dream in order to sleep or do you sleep in order to dream? Although that question remains debatable, researchers agree that there is a purpose and importance to dreaming.
Research have showed that people who are deprived from entering the dream phase of sleep or the REM stage, exhibit symptoms of irritability and anxiety. In one dream study, volunteers are woken up right before they enter into the dream state. Then they are allowed to fall back to sleep. Again, right before they enter REM sleep, they are awaken .
This continues on through the night. The volunteers sleep the same amount of time as they normally do. The next day, these volunteers go about their day and observed to be disoriented, depressed, crabby, and quick tempered. There is a general impairment in their daily functioning. Some eat more than usual. As this study continues on through several nights, subjects become more and more agitated. It is found that deprivation of REM sleep causes over-sensitivity, lack of concentration and memory loss.
This study shows the importance of dreaming and its role in your well-being and health. Some researchers believe that dreams help you to tackle stress. Dreaming is a necessity and helps to recharge the mind and revitalize the body.
In a study on babies and dreaming, it was learned that babies spend about 66% of their sleeping time in the REM state. That is quite a bit of dreaming, considering that the average adult spends 15-20% of their sleep time in the dreaming stage. Dream researchers believe that there is a correlation between REM sleep and brain development. While still in the womb, the fetus is already spending a significant amount of time in REM sleep. At only 30 weeks, the fetus spends nearly 24 hours in the REM state.
Premature babies also spend up to 80% of their sleep in the REM state. As babies mature, their REM sleep decreases. It drops to 50% in the full term baby and down to 35% in a one year old. This finding supports the notion that REM sleep is important in the mental development of the baby. Dreaming may be seen as a way of "exercising" the mind and stimulating it. As babies get older, they will be able get mental stimulation from their surroundings and outside environment. It is difficult to know what babies are dreaming about, but their dreams are probably triggered mainly by physical sensations. As babies continue to develop, visual images and sounds begin to play a role in dreams.
Daydreaming is classified as a level of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. Studies show that you have the tendency to daydream an average of 70-120 minutes a day. It occurs during waking hours when you let your imagination carry you away. As your mind begins to wander and your level of awareness decreases, you lose yourself in your imagined scenario and fantasy.
Have you ever thought you have waken up and gone about your daily morning routine: getting up, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast and going to work, only to wake up "again" and realize that what just happened is just a dream. That sensation is referred to as a false awakening.
Lucid dreams occur when you realize you are dreaming. "Wait a second. This is only a dream!" Most dreamers wake themselves up once they realize that they are dreaming. Other dreamers have cultivated the skill to remain in the lucid state of dreaming. They become an active participant in their own dreams, making decisions in their dreams and influencing the dream's outcome without awakening.
A nightmare is a disturbing dream that causes you to wake up feeling anxious and frightened. Nightmares may be a response to real life trauma and situations. These type of nightmares fall under a special category called Post-traumatic Stress Nightmare (PSN). Nightmares may also occur because you have ignored or refused to accept a particular life situation. Research shows that most people who have regular nightmares have a family history of psychiatric problems, are involved in a rocky relationship or have had bad drug experiences.
These people may have also contemplated suicide. Nightmares are an indication of a fear that needs to be acknowledged and confronted. It is a way for the subconscious to wake up and take notice. "Pay attention!"
On average, you can dream anywhere from one or two hours every night. Moreover, you can have four to seven dreams in one night.
Blind people do dream. Whether visual images appear in their dream depends on whether they were blind at birth or became blind later in life. But vision is not the only sense that constitutes a dream. Sounds, tactility, and smell become hypersensitive for the blind and their dreams are based on these senses.