How Many Dreams Do We Have – Who should stream the latest Hollywood movies? When you sleep at night, your brain connects both strange and familiar scenarios to create the weirdest midnight movies ever. In other words: dreams.
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How Many Dreams Do We Have
But why do we have dreams – and what do they all mean? Experts don’t have many concrete answers, but behavioral sleep medicine expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM, explains what we
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However, the prevailing theory is that dreaming helps you consolidate and analyze memories (as well as skills and habits) and probably serves as a “rehearsal” for various situations and challenges one encounters during the day.
We also know a lot – but not all – of what happens physiologically in dreams. Most dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which we cycle through periodically during the night. Sleep studies show that our brain waves are almost as active during REM cycles as they are when we are awake.
Experts believe that the brainstem generates REM sleep and the forebrain generates dreams. In fact, when the brainstem is injured, patients dream but do not enter REM sleep. And if the forearm is injured, patients go into REM sleep, but do not dream.
At the same time, we have much more to learn about what happens psychologically when we dream. For example, one study suggests that dreams come more from your imagination (the memories, abstract thoughts and desires pumped up from deep in your brain) than from perception (the vivid sensory experiences you collect in your forebrain) .
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And experts have found that dreams can accompany psychiatric conditions. We do know that people living with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) are more likely to have nightmares. These are manifestations of tension for people living with PTSD, as they relive their traumatic experiences.
Of course, people without PTSD also have nightmares, so more research is needed into the source of these often disturbing dreams.
This may have to do with neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals. During REM sleep, some are more pronounced, while others are suppressed.
Acetylcholine (which maintains brain activation) is more prominent, as is dopamine (which some researchers link to hallucinations). Dopamine can help give dreams their surreal quality.
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Meanwhile, REM sleep suppresses the neurotransmitters that normally keep us awake: histamine, serotonin and noradrenaline. Thus, we are less aware of our surroundings.
We can’t answer this easily because we haven’t found a good way to study dreams in humans. Memories of dreams fade quickly after you wake up, and it is difficult to correlate brain scans with your reports of dreams.
The relationship between space and time also changes when you dream. Time can seem to last forever – or go by very quickly.
Most people dream every night. However, you simply don’t remember your dreams unless you wake up during or right after them.
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That can be frustrating, although Dr. Drerup says it can help to write down what the dream was as soon as you wake up.
Is, however, another mystery. In the fifties introduced Dr. Sigmund Freud dream interpretation, but we have never been able to substantiate his claims. In fact, Dr. Drerup notes that dream interpretation is completely subjective.
So, ditch the books that promise to tell you what your snoozing visions mean, and look instead at your own waking life.
Have you ever wondered what dreams are and why some seem so strange? A behavioral sleep medicine doctor discusses what experts do – and don’t – know about dreams. Dreaming is a universal human experience, but dreams are still often shrouded in mystery. Here’s what experts think about common dream questions. (The Washington Post illustration/iStock)
Dreams: What Do They Mean?
Dreaming is widely regarded as a universal human experience. “We all dream every night,” even if we may not remember it, said sleep expert David Neubauer, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Despite the ubiquity of dreams, however, they are often still shrouded in mystery.
“That’s why dreams are fascinating to people,” said dream researcher G. William Domhoff, a distinguished professor emeritus and a research professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. “They come from somewhere else, probably from the deep unconscious, and that’s why they have this mysterious element.”
Answers to important questions about dreams, including the basics of what they are and why we have them, may differ among experts. And while science continues to expand what is known about dreams, there is a clear barrier to understanding them, Domhoff said, because “we basically forget most of them.”
Most broadly, Neubauer said, dreams are a type of reverie, or mental activity, that occurs when people are asleep and generally consists of vivid, hallucinatory visual content that is often bizarre or has irregular narratives.
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The “very intense, movie-like emotional stories” tend to happen most often during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, he said. This is also the phase of sleep in which memory consolidation is believed to occur, he added, so dreaming may be our perception of the process of “getting rid of some data files in your brain and reinforcing others to create better memories.”
Harvard dream researcher Deirdre Barrett, author of “The Committee of Sleep”, defines dreams as “our brain thinking in a completely different biochemical state.” When someone dreams, the visual and emotional areas of the brain tend to be active, while verbal areas are slightly less active, and “logical linear reasoning is reduced,” she said.
But, she added, people’s minds are typically still preoccupied with the hopes and fears, as well as social and emotional concerns that dominate their thoughts during the day. “We think in this intuitive visual state, but there is a lot of research that shows that the content of dreams is still in line with an individual’s main waking interests.”
Another approach to understanding dreams and dream content is what Domhoff has written as the “Neurocognitive Theory of Dreaming.” From this point of view, dreaming occurs under six brain-related conditions that mostly occur during REM sleep, said Domhoff, who has a forthcoming book on the theory.
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Domhoff’s work suggests that the key cognitive process present in dreams is an improved form of “simulation” where people experience themselves being in a hypothetical scenario that includes a living sensory environment; interpersonal interactions; and emotions. “Dreaming is the fortuitous intersection of this age-old periodic brain activation with the relatively recent acquisition of the capacity to imagine,” he said.
Alan Eiser, a psychologist and clinical professor at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, says that dreams can be “very meaningful” because they “deal with the kind of personal conflicts and emotional struggles that people in experiencing their daily life. .”
Not all dreams are meaningful, however, Barrett said. In fact, much of their content can be “trivial or circular or repetitive.” In that way, dreams can resemble thoughts we have when we are awake, which are also not always meaningful, she said.
Domhoff also emphasized that while dreams may have meaning, his research suggests that they are not symbolic. During sleep, people seem unable to access the parts of the brain involved in understanding or generating metaphors, he said. To use symbolic thought, “it takes more brain,” he said, than is accessible in dreams.
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One theory, experts said, is that people have persistent worries and will dream about those themes. Recurring dreams can be happy, but they are generally more likely to be anxiety-inducing, Barrett said. Many therapists, she said, believe that these types of dreams are usually about “more important long-term characterological issues,” such as a person’s personality traits, defense mechanisms and ways of coping, and beliefs about the world.
Although you may notice that you’ve had the same dream before, Domhoff said, recurring dreams are typically “a very, very small percentage of our dream life.”
One frequently reported recurring dream involves the feeling of falling but suddenly waking up on impact. The sensation of falling and waking up, which can also happen outside of dreams when people sleep, may be the result of movement signals sent by the inner ear that are “completely random,” Barrett said.
“Just as you get a little closer to waking, there’s a slight overlap in being mostly asleep and yet you start to feel like you’re getting these movement messages that mean something’s really wrong when they’re really happening,” she said.
Why Don’t I Have Dreams?
If you’re experiencing recurring dreams that don’t disrupt your normal functioning, observe them but don’t overthink or worry, said Bhanu Kolla, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology and a consultant at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine. “It’s just part of what’s going on in your life right now, and once things settle down, things change. It’s probably going to get better,” he said.
It’s important to have a clear sense of why a nightmare is happening, Neubauer said. Some medications, including certain antidepressants, can make dreams more vivid, and some underlying conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, can cause frequent nightmares. If your nightmares begin to affect your life and affect day functioning, experts