Dreams are by far my favorite part of sleeping. Being wrapped in warm blankets, feeling rested when you wake up, and cuddling up with my dog are all pretty great, but there is some mystery behind dreams that makes them exciting and fun.
There is no definitive answer as to why we sleep or what purpose our dreams have. Of course there are a number of theories as people have speculated about dreams since the beginning of time. There are a number of people who believe dreams hold a spiritual significance to us. The theories there tend to revolve around the idea that dreams provide insight and wisdom from our ancestors, guardian angels, or a more ambiguous source like fate.
The scientific community has a gambit of theories. They range from dreams being the expression of repressed longing to nothing more than meaningless electrical impulses. While the jury is still out on the why of dreaming we are learning more and more all the time.
Many people know that the most dreaming happens during the REM stage of sleep, but there are a lot of other interesting facts that scientists have discovered. Through a number of different studies its been shown that a decrease in reaching REM sleep is correlated with a number of mental illnesses. The theory there is that without REM sleep, your mind cannot strip the emotions away from your memories and it leads to an increase in anxiety and personal dissidence.
There are a number of reasons why someone wouldn’t reach REM sleep and dream. It’s understood that while everyone dreams not everyone can remember their dreams. So just because you can’t remember what you dreamed about doesn’t mean you aren’t dreaming. What will impact your ability to reach REM are things like alcohol, prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, the amount you workout, what you eat, and your sleeping environment. In short, the more healthy and comfortable you are when you sleep, the more REM time you’ll have and the higher likelihood you’ll remember your dreams.
Interestingly enough, gender can also play a role on what you dream about. Studies have shown that while both men and women dream about work, men tend to dream more about how they will become successful and climb the corporate ladder where as women will dream more about facing day-to-day challenges. Another study showed that women tend to have more nightmares or negative dreams than men and men had more sex dreams than women. Also, the content of the nightmares tends to be different in men and women. Men are more likely to dream about a physical disaster where women are more likely to dream about an emotional disaster.
I guess I can kind of see this. I was describing a recent nightmare I had the other day and while it was about a plane crash, the focus of the dream wasn’t really on the plane (which was dangling out of a tree) but rather on the people who had died in the plane. My fears were only exacerbated by the ambivalent attitude of the emergency responders when I called 911.
But of course, people aren’t the only ones who dream! Science has shown that a number of mammals dream. The most research has been done on rat dreams though. Not only have studies showed that rats dreamed, but the scientists were able to alter what the rats dreamed about with audio cues. And of course, one of the most fascinating discoveries was brought to us by Google. They showed that yes, their AI could “dream” which is completely fascinating and might completely debunk all of the spiritual theories about dreams.
Anyway, we are getting ever-closer to understanding dreams, but for now, I’ll just enjoy them as they come.