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You may have spent some time thinking about your dreams. Like, what is the meaning of your dreams, why did you dream something scary, or maybe you’ve asked yourself why you forgot most details of your dreams when you’re sharing it to another person.
Dreams really are an interesting topic in psychology. In fact, dreams have been studied so many times and according to some psychologists, getting a better handle on the nature of dreams can boost self-knowledge and aid personal growth. However, the experiences we have in our dreams can be mysterious.
But before we take a look at some interesting facts about dreams, what are dreams really, and what do they mean?
What are dreams
Dreams are a succession of sensations, emotions, ideas, and images that occur involuntarily in a person’s mind during certain stages of sleep. Dreams occur in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of 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. It is thought that dreams containing particular objects or subjects can tell us about our personality, and what is playing on our mind.
What do dreams mean
In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud, the Father of psychoanalysis, wrote about the theory of dreams and their interpretations. Freud believed that dreams are a manifestation of our deepest anxieties and desires, often relating to repressed childhood obsessions or memories. In addition, it was his belief that 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.
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, memory formation, or that they occur simply due to random brain activation.
Now that we know what dreams are, and what they mean, here are some interesting facts about dreams.
Fact #1: Violent dreams can be a warning sign
A new study suggests that a rare sleep disorder in which people act out their dreams, sometimes with violent thrashes, kicks and screams, maybe an early sign of brain disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
In this study, researchers examined Mayo Clinic medical records to identify cases of the so-called REM sleep behavior disorder reported from 2002 to 2006 and identified 27 patients who developed the REM sleep behavior disorder at least 15 years before showing symptoms of neurodegenerative ailments.
They found out that 13 patients developed what was likely dementia and mild cognitive impairment, 12 patients developed Parkinson’s disease, one person Parkinson’s-dementia, and one person multiple system atrophy.
The main symptom of REM sleep behavior disorder is dream-enacting behavior, which can end in the person injuring themselves or a bed mate. Past research has also suggested a link between the dream-enacting behaviors and certain neurodegenerative ailments.
Fact #2: Men and women dream differently
If there are differences between the physiological aspect of men and women, researchers have found that there are also some differences between men and women when it comes to the content of their dreams. There are several studies that found out that men reported dreaming about weapons significantly more often than women did, while women dreamed about references to clothing more often than men.
Women tend to have slightly longer dreams that feature more characters. When it comes to the characters that typically appear in dreams, men dream about other men twice as often as they do about women, while women tend to dream about both sexes equally.
Men’s dreams tend to have more aggressive content and physical activity, while women’s dreams contain more rejection and exclusion, as well as more conversation than physical activity, another study suggests.
Another study by psychologist Dr Jennie Parker of the University of the West of England showed that men are more likely than women to dream about sex and women are more likely to have experienced nightmares.
Fact #3: You can control your dreams
It is possible to control your dreams and it’s called ‘lucid dreaming’. A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming even though you’re still asleep. Lucid dreaming is thought to be a combination state of both consciousness and REM sleep, during which you can often direct or control the dream content.
According to the research of Dr Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada, people who frequently play video games are more likely than non-gamers to have lucid dreams where they view themselves from outside their bodies; they also were better able to influence their dream worlds, as if controlling a video-game character.
‘Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams,’ Dr Gackenbach says. That level of control may also help gamers turn a bloodcurdling nightmare into a carefree dream, which could help war veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after combat as suggested by Dr Gackenbach.
Fact #4: Dreams help us solve puzzles
Have you ever experienced being stressed over a problem that you can’t solve and just decided to go to sleep? According to the theory of Deirdre Barrett, a Harvard psychologist, sleeping hours may help us solve puzzles that have plagued us during daylight hours. According to her, it’s the visual and often illogical aspects of dreams that make them perfect for out-of-the-box thinking that is necessary to solve some problems.
‘Whatever the state we’re put in, we’re still working on the same problems,’ Barrett said, adding that while dreams may have originally evolved for another purpose, they have likely been refined over time for multiple tasks, including helping the brain reboot and helping us solve problems.
Fact #5: Blind people may dream visually
Researchers have found out in a study of people who have been blind at birth that they still seemed to experience visual imagery in their dreams, and they also had eye movements that correlated to visual dream recall.
They have also found out that although their eye movements were fewer during REM than the sighted participants of the study, the blind participants reported the same dream sensations, including visual content.
Image credit: Freepik
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