What is a Dream?
The Webster Dictionary gives this definition of a dreams:
- a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep
- an experience of waking life having the characteristics of a dream
Oneirology is the scientific word for dream studies. A dream consists of ideas, images, memories, sensations and emotions that occur usually during REM sleep, which s when rapid eye movement occurs. Dreams are involuntary, and your voluntary muscles are typically paralyzed (REM atonia), so you cannot act out the dream. It is typical to have numerous dreams per night of sleep, but most tend to occur in the earlier part of sleep. Dreams last anywhere from a few seconds up to 20-30 minutes.
Most dreams are not remembered the next day unless you are awakened during the dream. While it is surmised that most people dream, there is a small percentage of people that claim they have never remembered a dream. Others keep a journal by their bed to record dreams, as they are looking for clues to their inner lives, possibly premonitions or maybe for creative insight.
Is Dreaming Understood by Scientists?
Scientist do not fully understand the purpose of dreams. Dreams have been of interest to the scientific, the philosophical and religious communities throughout recorded history. Numerous dream interpretations have attempted to draw some meaning of dreams, as they are always searching for that underlying message.
Why do we Dream?
History of Dream Research
Ancient Egyptians believed dreaming was a way to communicate with the gods and that dreams revealed prophecies. Sigmund Freud in the early 1900s developed the “Freudian theory of dreams.” He believed that dreams revealed insight into the emotions and hidden desires, as they were a product of the unconscious mind. He used dream interpretations as a psychoanalytic treatment for patients.
Freud’s theories eventually became the theory for the Oedipus complex. The Oedipus is a complex psychoanalytic theory stating “a desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex and a concomitant sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex; a crucial stage in the normal developmental process.”
Calvin S. Hall, Jr. is also known for work at Case Western Reserve and many other universities in the 1940s. He collected over 50,000 dreams before his death. His conclusions revealed that people around the world had very similar type dreams, excluding cultural differences. He developed a quantitative coding system that divided dreams into specific settings that included characters, emotions, settings and several other categories. His work with numerous people that kept dream journals revealed a consistency in dream content over their lifetime.
Dream of a Child
Normal Dreams Reported
Dreams tend to involve people you know or a familiar location, but they may take on a fantastical feel. Dreams are not always positive, in fact some are frightening. Deams may also be exciting, magical, adventurous, melancholic or sexual.
All that we see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream.
--Edgar Allan Poe
Nightmares and Lucid Dreams
Lucid dreams occur when an individual is dreaming, yet able to control the some events in their dream. This means that during REM sleep you also have some component of consciousness. Being self-aware in a dream will let you be superman or super-woman, and virtually anything you choose. When I was a child I dreamed I could fly very frequently with the ability to stop in midair. I really do not know if it was a lucid dream, but I loved it. It is possible to learn to do lucid dreaming.
Nightmares are disturbing and cause negative feelings. PTSD patients or domestically abused individuals often have numerous nightmares, yet just watching a horror movie may result in a nightmare. Nightmares may begin between 3 to 6 years of age and be gone by age 10.
The characteristics of nightmares include:
- The dreams are vivid and seem real with the dream being more upsetting as the dream progresses.
- The storyline of the dream is typically related to safety and/or survival.
- The nightmare awakens you.
- You will feel anxious, upset, scared, sad, angry or disgusted due to the dream.
- You may feel sweaty or have a pounding heartbeat while lying in bed.
- You will think clearly when you awaken and will be able to recall details of the dream.
- The dream causes such distress you will probably not fall back to sleep easily.
How to Lucid Dream for Beginners
Unusual Dream Facts
Each person’s dreams are unique to them, and there are many unusual facts concerning dreams.
Some of the unusual facts about dreams include:
- A few people have reported they have some dreams that are not in color.
- When people were awakened during sleep and asked to pick colors seen in their dreams, most pick soft pastel colors.
- Anxiety and negative feelings are the most common emotions experienced in dreams.
- People that have been blind since birth experience visual imagery during sleep, but have less time in REM sleep then sighted people.
- Brain scans of sleeping people has revealed that the frontal lobe of the brain is inactive, which explains why dreams are difficult to remember shortly after rising.
- Researchers believe animals dream.
- Across all cultures common dreams include being chased, attached or falling.
Dreams of Men and Women Differ
Numerous studies have revealed men tend to dream about weapons and women dream of references to clothing. Men’s dreams are more aggressive and physically active, while women tend to dream slightly longer than men their dreams contain more exclusion, conversation and rejection.
The dreams of women have more characters. Another interesting feature is men tend to dream of other men twice as often as they dream of women. Women dream about both sexes equally.
There is evidence in the oldest writing discovered that people wanted to know the meaning of dreams. Here we are centuries later, and we do not have the answer to that question. Dreams could be some psychotherapy for us. We forget 95% of dreams within a few minutes of arising. Perhaps dreams are a way of dealing with problems and stress in our lives. Of course, no one know for sure.
Do You Dream at Night?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2019 Pamela Oglesby