Dreams are experiences of imaginary images, sounds, voices, words, thoughts or sensations during sleep. They usually seem real while your dream is taking place. When you wake up, you either don’t remember it, or you realize it never happened.
Dreaming usually occurs during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, which is when brain activity is high and signalled by quick horizontal movements of the eye. Dreams can occur during other stages of sleep, but these are much less memorable and clear. They can sometimes last for a few minutes, or up to twenty minutes.
Dreams are a link to the inner core of the human subconscious. They can be normal and realistic, or even bizarre and surreal.
Why do we dream?
Scientists are still trying to find out why we dream. There are many theories, but none have actually been scientifically proven.
There are two main theories as to why we dream, The Physiological theory and The Psychological Theory.
The Physiological Theory focuses on how our body, mainly the brain, function during the REM stage of sleep. This theory believes that we dream to exercise the pathways between brain cells. It also believes that during the first two years in ones life,
The Sleep Cycle
One sleep cycle consists of four stages, each lasting 90-120 minutes. Some people believe that there are five stages. They think the first 5-10 minutes while you are falling asleep, but this is more of a transitional phase and the other stages of sleep repeat throughout the night, this phase does not, so it is not considered as a stage of sleep.
Dreams can occur in all stages but the most memorable dreams occur in the last stage of sleep, when they are closest to waking up (REM). The sleep cycle repeats itself on an average of 4 to 5 times per night, but they may repeat as many as 7 times. This is how a person dreams several times in one night. But just because u do not recall those dreams, it doesn’t mean that they never happened. Some people swear that they do not dream, but in reality they just don’t remember.
The Sleep Cycle 2
Stage 1: When a person enters light sleep. This stage is characterized by non-rapid eye movements (NREM). Muscles become relaxed, body temperature lowers, and the body is getting prepared to fall into deep sleep.
Stage 2: Also characterized by NREM. There is a further drop in body temperature and relaxation of muscles. The body’s immune system gets working on repairing the days damage and the endocrine glands secrete grown hormone. Blood is sent to the muscles to be reconditioned. By now, you are completely asleep.
Stage 3: Even deeper sleep. Still in the NREM stage. Metabolic levels are extremely slow now.
Stage 4: Now in the REM stage, or delta stage. Your eyes move back and forth rapidly underneath the eyelids. You go into this stage 90-100 minutes after you have fallen asleep. Blood pressure rises, breathing becomes heavier, heart rate speeds up and brain activity increases. Your involuntary muscles become paralyzed and your mind is being revitalised and your emotions are being fine tuned. Majority of dreaming occurs in this stage.
The Sleep Cycle 3
When you dream, your body faces some changes. Your adrenaline rises, your blood pressure increases, and your heart beats faster. This is why a person with a weak heart may die in their sleep. From the point you fall asleep, it takes 30-90 minutes before you fall asleep. We go through the four stages of sleep and may enter the REM phase 4-7 times in one night. REM sleep takes place in the fourth stage of sleep, and it takes up about 15-20% of our sleep time. During REM our heart rate and blood pressure increases. Our bodies are completely immobile during this time, and our muscles stay relaxed. We might move in our bed throughout the night, but this doesn’t happen during REM. This is known as “REM Paralysis”.
History of Dreams
Dream interpretations date back to 3000-4000 B.C. People have always been fascinated by dreams and have always wanted to understand them completely.
In the ancient Greek and Roman times, dreams were thought of as messages from gods or the death. They looked to their dreams as warnings and advice on what they should do. Back then people believed that dreams tell the future. Their belief in dreams was so strong that they even depended on their dreams to find out what actions the political and military leaders should make.
During the Hellenistic period, dreams were believed to be able to heal. It was believed that sick people who slept in special temples (called Asclepieions) would be sent cures through their dreams.
In Ancient Egypt, priests were also thought to be dream interpreters. They recorded their dreams in hieroglyphics, and people who had significant and vivid dreams were considered special people.
The Importance of Dreaming
Research has shown that people who are for any reason stopped from entering the dreaming phase (REM), go through the symptoms of irritability and anxiety.
In an experiment, volunteers were woken up before entering the dreaming state. They were put back to sleep and again woken up before entering the dreaming state. They continued to do this during the night. The volunteers slept the same amount as they did usually, but the next day they seemed to be depressed, disoriented, and crabby and quick tempered. Some even ate more than usual. As this study continued for several nights, results became more noticeable. Deprivation of REM sleep causes lack of concentration, over-sensitivity and memory loss. This shows the importance of dreaming and its roll in our health. Some people believe that dreams help us fight stress. It recharges our mind and revitalizes our body.
Daydreams and Fantasies
Everyone daydreams. We all like to think and imagine what it would be like to have something we want or to be someone else. We find ourselves daydreaming all the time-in the classroom, at home, walking down the street etc.. This allows us to imagine what is possible. They can help and motivate us to make new and exciting things happen. But this can distracting as they take our minds off what we are doing in serious situations such as driving and studying. Some people fantasize more than others.
The content in our daydreams are helpful in understanding your true feelings and help in fulfilling your goals. Day dreaming occurs when you are half awake, and it is the imagining or remembering of images or experiences in the past or future. You let your imagination run away from you. When you daydream, you are using the right side of your brain. This side is the creative and more feminine side of your personality.
Daydreams and Fantasies 2
The worrying of things can also be called daydreaming, because when you worry you are visualising the negative and unwanted outcome of a situation. If you keep on visualising those negative images, you are more likely to make it happen. Next time you worry, think about the positive outcomes. You can use this as a tool to make positive things happen. You can use daydreams as a technique to imagine all the positive you want to happen. It is believed that many athletes, musicians and business leaders use this technique to gain success. Positive daydreaming is healthy.
In some dreams, the dreamer recognises the dream that they are dreaming. This is called Lucid Dreaming. Dreamers say that this is a very satisfying type of dreaming. If the dream involves fear or negative things happening, the dreamer can reassure him/herself that it is only a dream and that he or she will soon awaken. It is believed that some people can lead themselves to wake up from a frightening dream.
We have all had nightmares at some point of our lives. These dreams are quite normal. Nightmares are a subcategory of dreams. A nightmare is a dream including frightening and/or emotional content. When having a nightmare, it is possible to wake up in fear. You tend to remember nightmares and its details because of it being frightening. Sometimes, the images from a nightmare might stay with you throughout the day.
One reason for nightmares may be a way of our unconscious to get our attention about a problem that you have been avoiding. Nightmares serve an important purpose in showing you what is troubling and causing you problems. Discussing, analyzing, and understanding your nightmares can lead to a solution for some problems.
Most dreams that contain messages that teach us something about ourselves, but many times we forget what we dream about throughout the day. The message in recurring dreams may be so important that it just wont go away. The many repetitions of dreams will force you to pay attention and confront the message that the dream is trying to get to you. The dream is desperately trying to tell you something. Some dreams may be nightmares or frightening to help you take notice and pay attention to them.
Tips on overcoming your Recurring Dreams
1. In understanding your recurring dream, you must be willing to accept some change.
2. You must be willing to look within yourself and confront whatever you may find, no matter how difficult it may be.
3. You must be able to look at the dream from an objective point of view. Try to get past the emotional and reactive elements of the dream and get down to the images. Many times dreams are covered by elements that are disturbing, stopping you from going any deeper. This is a defence mechanism that your unconscious may be putting up.
4. Be patient. Do not get discouraged if these dreams still recur even after you thought you have come to understand them.
5. Learn to accept yourself truly and fully.
Prophetic dreams, also known as precognitive or psychic dreams, are dreams that tell the future. One theory to explain this is that our mind is able to piece together information and observation that we don’t take seriously. Basically, our unconscious mind knows what is coming before we consciously put together the same information.
Epic dreams, also known as Great Dreams or Cosmic Dreams, are dreams that are so memorable and vivid, that we simply cannot ignore them. The details of these dreams remain in your memory for years, as if you’ve dreamt it last night. These dreams contain much beauty and archetypal symbology. When you wake up from these dreams, you feel as if you have just discovered something amazing about yourself or about the world. This sometimes feels like a life-changing experience.