What it means to dream
A dream can be explained as a succession of sensations, emotions, ideas, and images that occur involuntarily in a person’s mind during certain stages of sleep. We don’t know the purpose of dreams but they have certainly been the subject of religious and philosophical interest and a topic of scientific speculation throughout recorded history. Interestingly, the scientific study of dreams is known as Oneirology.
When do I dream?
You dream during REM sleep because this is when brain activity is high and most resembles that of being awake. It’s the continuous movements of the eyes during sleep that identifies REM sleep; however, dreams can occur during other sleep stages, but these dreams tend to be less memorable and much less vivid.
How long do I dream for?
From seconds to 30 minutes, our dreams vary giving validation to why dreamers are able to recall their dreams. This is because they have been woken up whilst in the REM phase of sleep. On average, people have between three and five dreams each night, with some having up to seven; however, most of our dreams are quickly forgotten. It seems that our dreams tend to last longer as the night progresses and, when we have a full eight-hour sleep, the majority of our dreams occur in the typical two hours of REM.
Today, many people see dreams as a connection to the unconscious mind. There are varying natures of dreams, such as exciting, frightening, melancholic, magical, adventurous, and even sexual; and our dreams seem to range from normal and ordinary right through to bizarre and completely surreal. Throughout cultures and time, opinions have varied and shifted about the meaning of dreams. It seems that people generally endorse the Freudian theory of dreams, and that is that dreams reveal hidden emotions and desires. Other theories are that dreams help us in problem-solving, in memory formation, or that they occur simply due to random brain activation.
History class for dreams
The earliest recorded dreams were documented on clay tablets. In the Roman and Greek periods, people believed that dreams were messages sent directly from one or more deities, from deceased people, and that they were the predictors of the future. Then there were cultures that practiced dream incubation, their intention being to cultivate dreams of prophecy.
What do they mean?
Some people believe dreams are a manifestation of our deepest anxieties and desires, often relating to repressed childhood obsessions or memories. This was Freudian theory where almost every dream topic, irrespective of its content, represented the release of sexual tension. In Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams 1899, he developed a psychological technique whereby dreams could be interpreted; he also devised a series of guidelines to help us understand the motives and symbols that appear in our dreams.