“Perchance to dream”

Dreams are fascinating and captivated researchers and the public down  through the ages.

Dreamlike - swimming through a road
Researchers are still trying to determine exactly why we dream.

What Are Dreams?

Dreams are fascinating and captivated researchers and the public down  through the ages.

Dreams are basically stories and images that our mind creates while we sleep. They can be vivid. They can make you feel happy, sad, or scared. And they may seem confusing or perfectly rational.

Dreams can happen at any time during sleep. But most vivid dreaming takes place during a phase called REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, when your brain is most active – REM has been called Paradoxical Sleep, because in many respects. It’s as active as when you’re not asleep. Research suggests that we dream at least four to six times a night.

Lucid dreams

A lucid dream is one in which you know you’re dreaming and  research supports lucid dreaming occurring with a boost of activity in parts of the brain that are usually restful during sleep. Lucid dreaming is a brain state somewhere between REM sleep and being awake.

Some lucid dreamers are able to influence their dream, almost changing the story as it proceeds – like reality. This may be a good tactic to take sometimes, especially during a nightmare, although there’s no evidence to either choice being better.


A nightmare is a bad dream. It’s common in both children and adults. Often, it happens because of overwork, stress, worry, conflict, trauma or emotional overload. They may also occur because of indigestion medication, illness or alcohol or drugs.

If you have a certain nightmare repeatedly, your subconscious may be trying to tell you something. Listen to it. If you can’t figure out why you’re having bad dreams, talk to a mental health care provider. They may be able to help you figure out what’s causing your nightmares and give you tips to put you at ease.

Remember that no matter how scary a nightmare is, it’s not real and most likely won’t happen to you in real life. Unless it involves the government!

Why Do We Dream?

No one knows despite many suggestions and assumptions. Some researchers say dreams have no purpose or meaning. Others say we need dreams for our mental, emotional, and physical health.

Studies have looked into the importance of dreams to our health and well-being. In one study, researchers woke people just as they were going into REM sleep. They found that those who were NOT allowed to dream had:

More tension, anxiety, depression, difficulty in concentrating and co-ordination. Studies also suggested weight gain and even hallucinations.

Many experts say dreams exist to: Help solve problems in our lives, to incorporate memories and help to process emotions.

If you go to bed with a troubling thought, you may wake with a solution or at least feel better about the situation. Studies have repeatedly shown that when students “sleep on their revision” they consistently do better than those who “cram” that morning.

Some dreams may help our brains process our thoughts and the events of the day. Others may just be the result of normal brain activity and mean very little, if anything. Researchers are still trying to determine exactly why we dream.

Dream - flying horse and clouds
Researchers are still trying to determine exactly why we dream.

How Long Do Dreams Last?

REM sleep lasts only a few minutes early in the night but gets longer as we sleep. Later in the night, it might last more than 30 minutes. The length of a dream can therefore vary; they may last for a few seconds, or approximately 20–30 minutes. People are more likely to remember the dream if awakened during the REM phase of sleep.

What Do Dreams Mean?

Sigmund Freud believed that dreams are a window into our subconscious mind revealing a person’s: Unconscious thoughts, desires and motivation. He thought dreams were a way for people to satisfy urges and desires that weren’t acceptable to society.

Just as there are different opinions about why we dream, there are different views about what dreams mean. Some experts say dreams have no connection to our real emotions or thoughts. They’re just strange stories that don’t relate to normal life.

Others say our dreams may reflect our own thoughts and feelings — our deepest desires, fears, and concerns, especially dreams that happen over and over. By interpreting our dreams, we may gain insight into our lives and ourselves. Many people say they’ve come up with their best ideas while dreaming

Often, people report having similar dreams: They’re being chased, fall off a cliff, or show up in public naked. These types of dreams are probably caused by hidden stress and anxiety. The dreams may be similar, but experts say the meaning behind the dream is unique to each person.

There are many “self-professed” experts in this field, but the truth is that very little is known for sure – there does appear to be significant randomness to the process. Scientists suggest not relying on books or “dream dictionaries,” which give a specific meaning for a specific dream image or symbol. The reason behind your dream is unique to you.

Can Dreams Predict the Future?

No. Sometimes, dreams come true or appear to tell of a future event. When you have a dream that plays out in real life, experts say it’s most likely due to, coincidence, a poor recollection of the dream or an unconscious linking of known information to the dream.

But sometimes, dreams can motivate you to act a certain way, so maybe this is changing the future!

Why Are Dreams Hard to Remember?

Researchers don’t know for sure why dreams are easily forgotten. Maybe we’re designed to forget our dreams because if we remembered them all, we might not be able to tell dreams from real memories.

Also, it could be harder to remember dreams because during REM sleep, our body may shut down systems in our brain that create memories. We may remember only those dreams that happen just before we wake, when certain brain activities are turned back on.

Some suggest that it’s not that our minds that forget dreams but that we don’t know how to access them. Dreams may be stored in our memory, waiting to be recalled. This may explain why you suddenly remember a dream later in the day: Something may have happened to trigger the memory.

Tips for Dream Recall

Picture of little clouds spelling "Dreams"
If you’re curious about your dreams or want to sort out any possible meaning behind them, consider keeping a dream diary or journal.

If you’re a sound sleeper and don’t wake up until the morning, you’re less likely to remember your dreams, compared with people who wake up several times in the night. Some tips may help you remember your dreams:

Wake up without an alarm. You’re more likely to remember your dreams if you wake up naturally than with an alarm. Once the alarm goes off, your brain focuses on turning off the annoying sound, not on your dream.

Remind yourself to remember. If you make a decision to remember your dreams, you’re more likely to remember them in the morning. Before you go to sleep, remind yourself that you want to remember your dream.

Dream playback. If you think about the dream right after waking, it may be easier to remember it later.

How to make “Sense of Your Dreams”

If you’re curious about your dreams or want to sort out any possible meaning behind them, consider keeping a dream diary or journal.

Write them down soon as you awaken. Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed, and record your dream first thing every morning, while the memory is still fresh.

Write down anything you recall and how it made you feel, even if you can remember only random pieces of information.

Journal without judgment. Dreams are sometimes odd and may go against societal norms. Try not to judge yourself based on your dreams. They are most likely random, it’s only our conscious thought that seeks explanation.


Book to write down your night time dreams
Book for writing dreams (Picture of moon)

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