Ever since the Internet was born, people think they know everything because they read it online, not realizing lies and half-truths are just as prevalent in cyberspace as they are at family reunions. Subjects such as dreams, which are among the last mysteries of the human brain, are popular fodder for misinformation, so be careful what you believe before you rest your head on that pillow tonight.
What we do know about dreams is that people dream every night. People who deny this simply do not remember their dreams, although who remembers and who doesn’t or why is unknown. We also know that people go through various stages of slumber, with the most dream-producing phase known as REM or Rapid Eye Movement phase. This brain plateau is like your body after chugging a Red Bull, energized and ready to rumble.
Professionals who study dreams, such as philosophers, psychiatrists, and psychologists, have a myriad of hypotheses of why people dream. But even with over a century of studying the subject, conducting scientific studies, and tracking hundreds of thousands of subjects through brain wave monitoring and extensive one-on-one interviews, solid answers for why we dream remain elusive. Read on to learn some facts that might shed some light on the subject.
15 Forget About It
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Studies have found that most adult humans forget 90 percent of their dreams. People who remember dreams are quite rare and most adults who claim to remember dreams and nightmares with clarity actually only recall small bits and pieces and then, consciously or unconsciously, fill in the rest of the details of the visions with their imagination or wishful thinking. If your dreams are bad, the brain often blocks them as a favor to the human psyche. Can you even imagine remembering all the morbid, vivid details of your ghoulish nightmares, especially as a child? Conversely, it would be a little slice of heaven to be able to recall all the finer points of wonderful dreams like flying, playing with departed pets, or being with loved ones no longer with us. Forgetting is sometimes a blessing when traumatic events fade with memory but is a burden when it comes to missed birthdays, misplaced car keys, and overlooked dentist appointments.
14 Scientifically Speaking
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Many people often confuse the study of dreams with the interpretation of dreams. But it’s comparable to the difference between a food scientist and a chef. A food scientist investigates the actual make-up of food like fats, fiber, additives, calorie content, chemical elements, decomposition, etc. A chef may also know some or all of these food facts but their main focus and interests are to make their food taste good, look appealing, and be the perfect balance of tastes and textures. Oneirology is the technical term for the scientific study of dreams. These scientists delve into the minute systems and processes the brain and body go through when dreaming, from start to finish. Dream interpreters try to relate what goes on in your brain while sleeping to your waking actions and thoughts and draw insightful and helpful conclusions. Between these two groups of professionals, hopefully, solid and helpful information will arise.
13 The Sightless Situation
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Unless you happen to know a blind person well enough to ask about a subject as personal as dreams, you’ve probably wondered once or twice if sightless folks dream. The answer is a definite yes, but in many different ways than those with sight dream. Blind people’s dreams don’t contain visual images like sighted people’s do but instead they contain heightened and intense perceptions of sound, smell, emotion and touch, just the same as when they’re awake, powerful and dramatic sensations those with eyesight miss out on while dreaming and experience less passionately when awake. And equally interesting is that those who lost their sight subsequent to birth see images in their dreams with no problem, just like people who have been able to see their entire lives. What a great experience we could all have with mind melding during slumber so we could all enjoy every sense as powerfully as possible!
12 An Ancient Pastime
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Although renowned psychoanalysts Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud made dream interpretation trendy when they popularized modern day psychological analysis in the early 20th century, dream interpretation was commonly practiced thousands of years before by everyone from clerics to medical doctors, witches and psychics. Records show that in the 3rd Millennium BC, many Mesopotamian people were busy interpreting dreams and trying to make them helpful in predicting outcomes of conflicts, crop production, births and deaths in their ancient culture. Many people during this historic period recorded dream details in huge journals, including drawings and sketches of people’s visions, especially those of royalty, created expansive logs and books (since they also invented writing!), and set out to make sense of it all. Alas, even with centuries of study and advanced techniques in brain studies, we do not know much more about dream meanings today…but the interest in dream interpretation has never waned.
11 Dreams Are Rarely Unique
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We tend to think our dreams are as unique as our personalities and food likes and dislikes but they’re not. The Sleep Laboratory at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany conducted a study on 444 subjects in 2004. Called a “Typical Dream Questionnaire," the participants were asked to choose which of 55 common dream themes they’d experienced, including subjects such as flying, running but making no progress, being chased, etc. The results showed that most of the themes had been experienced at least once in their lives and that even the frequency of certain subjects was consistent. Dreams are also very symbolic. If you dream about a subject, it is usually not what the dream is about and usually represents some other aspect in your life that’s weighing on your mind. Also notable, anxiety is the most common emotion experienced in dreams…similar to many people’s waking hours!
10 Don’t Be Embarrassed – Everyone Has These Dreams
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Almost everyone has had that weird experience of waking up and instantly blushing about what went on in their heads while sleeping. Psychologist Antonio Zadra found in a 2007 study that both men and women had sexually themed dreams around 8 percent of the time. Those dreams were about strangers as well as people they knew and ran the gamut from being propositioned to actual intercourse, with a little bit of everything in between. Self-pleasuring made up about 6 percent of both men and women dreams and the big O happened about 4 percent of the time…kind of like real life! Women and men dream also differently. Women’s dreams typically have equal numbers of men and women; men’s dreams tend to have more men on board. And men generally have more aggressive dreams than women. A survey of more than 5,000 people revealed that dreams of an unfaithful partner is the nightmare that plagues most people. However, that dream rarely has anything to do with cheating, but rather the fear of being abandoned or betrayed.
9 Remembering Can Be Traumatic
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While we all wish we could remember more of our dreams, having those memories might be the worst thing that could happen. Psychologists Calvin Hall and Robert Van de Castle developed a dream content analysis after Hall had compiled over 50,000 dream reports over several decades. The UC Santa Cruz website on dream research reported that their system, which Hall used on reports conducted in four Latin American countries, was also used by dream experts in the United States, Canada, Europe, India, and Japan. All the studies discovered that people’s dreams revealed more aggression than pleasantness, more hard luck than good fortune, and more undesirable emotion than positive feelings. And according to experts, it’s not just one dream per night, but rather dozens of them – you just may not remember them all. It is estimated that most people have more than 100,000 dreams in a lifetime. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
8 Color Your World
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Dream research indicates that today, 7 out of 8 people dream in color, meaning 1 out of 8 is stuck with black and white images dancing in their heads. But that hasn’t always been the case. Back in the first half of the 20th century, from 1900 to 1950, it was the other way around. When color TV sales were on the rise in the 50s and movies had more color in them with every passing year, people naturally dreamed in more color. Adding more mystery to the story is the fact that before TV and movies were invented when people depended more on nature and imagination for visual imagery, studies show almost everyone dreamed in vivid color. Other good news is that you can control these colorful dreams. In fact, a recent study of 3,000 people, almost 65 percent of participants reported being cognizant of were dreaming within a dream, and 34 percent claimed they could sometimes control the outcomes.
7 Smoke Gets In Your Dreams
Giving up cigarette smoking is reportedly a more difficult challenge than kicking any other addiction. The fact that quitting smoking also messes with your dreams, in addition to the other withdrawal symptoms like irritability, headaches, neuralgia, inability to concentrate, insomnia and increased appetite, makes kicking the habit even harder as the adverse symptoms greatly degrade the quality of everyday life. According to study results found in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, of 293 smokers who had quit the smoking habit for periods lasting between 1 and 4 weeks, 1/3 had at least one dream about smoking again, accompanied by feelings of embarrassment, shame remorse, and terror. This dream state side effect is also prevalent in withdrawal from other drugs besides nicotine, including caffeine and opiates. In fact, any dramatic change in your life, positive or negative, planned or unplanned, can greatly affect your dreams. It’s much more difficult to control your subconscious than your conscious mind.
6 Dreams Can Paralyze You
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Do you ever wake up suddenly in the middle of the night and feel like you can’t move? Don’t panic; the phenomenon is most often a natural effect of being in the middle of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the most dream-filled period of slumber. During this deep sleep period, your body releases neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin, and histamine, natural chemicals your body releases that suppress the motor neurons that let you freely move around when you’re awake. This inability to move is a built-in deterrent to prevent sleeping people from unconsciously acting out their dreams and possibly hurting themselves or others with involuntary movements of their arms and legs. People who suffer from REM behavior disorder are at a much greater risk of physically harming others or themselves without any knowledge of their actions. If you think you may suffer from this disorder, let your doctor know as they may recommend seeing a sleep therapist.
5 Dreaming Cats & Dogs
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People with pets have no doubt wondered more than once what their beloved furry friends are dreaming about as they watch them twitch and turn, raising an eyebrow or ear here and there, and change positions, facial expressions and breathing patterns while they enjoy a long, restful snooze. While researchers and specialists don’t yet know exactly what cats, dogs, hamsters or any animals dream about, a number of extensive studies have shown that they share many of the brain activity and physiological changes that humans encounter during most phases of sleep. And these similarities aren’t limited to mammals; your pet birds and reptiles also experience REM sleep and go through several brain changes during naps. You can actually see their eyelids flutter sometimes – just like in humans – when they are in the REM phase of sleeping. For now, we can only speculate on what wild things are going through those tiny heads and brains.
4 Dreams Inspire Creativity
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Not only did Elias Howe dream of what a sewing needle should look like, he used that vision to invent the sewing machine in 1845. John Lennon dreamt about the bizarre lyrics of #9 Dream before he wrote the hit, and Paul McCartney allegedly composed the classic Yesterday in a dream. Surrealist Salvador Dali claimed many of his works were merely “hand-painted dream photographs.” Edgar Allen Poe looked to his nightmares to inspire his poems and prose. Dreamcatcher, a hit Stephen King novel, was based on nightmares King had after he was mowed down by a minivan on a country road in Maine. Notable psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s famous writing called The Red Book is a huge collection of his dreams, surrealist dialogues, psychedelic drawings, and fantasies that he compiled to better understand how dreams affect creativity. Director Christopher Nolan’s hit movie Inception was inspired by his dreams and the notion that dreams could be shared with others in real time.
3 Learn More Through Dreaming
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We all know how powerful a good night's sleep is whether you remember your dreams or not. It not only refreshes and restores your mind and body, it arms you with the physical and mental strength to meet life’s challenges that lie ahead. When someone suggests all you need is a night of restful sleep to improve your mood, concentration, and mental performance, you should listen. In addition to physical and mental revitalization, researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted a study published in Current Biology magazine that linked learning and retention levels to dreams. The study found that a dreaming brain helps people learn new concepts more quickly, creatively resolve problems, and process and retain new information. It was also discovered that taking a nap in a quiet, dimly lit room during a study session or while mastering a new skill helps you remember what you learned. So instead of cramming for an extra hour before a big test, relax by turning in early or taking a nice, long nap.
2 The Big O Dream
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Men have always been singled out by society and doctors for experiencing the Big O while they were sleeping, sometimes several times during one night’s sleep. But it turns out this experience is not just a man thing. According to Barbara Bartlik, MD, a psychiatrist and sex therapist in New York, “Women have (Big Os) during their sleep, just as men do,” she says. “These (bodily fluid excretions) often accompany erotic dreams, but they also may occur during dreams of a nonerotic nature.” Bartlik added that when women dream, it’s also common for their lady bits to experience things as well. She explained, “This occurs during REM sleep, which happens several times during the night. Men get (aroused) during REM sleep, whether or not the man is having an erotic dream.” Of course, both men and women frequently dream about romantic situations and scenarios that never evolve into real physical encounters.
1 Living The Dream
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Some dreams are so wonderful you wish they would never end, so you lay in bed, concentrating on falling back to sleep to start the next chapter. While that’s not possible (yet!), you can make those dreams of break dancing, singing the national anthem, floating, flying, eating truffles, or rolling in the hay with your favorite movie or rock star last a few minutes longer. The trick is simple: as soon as you wake up and remember the dream, lie perfectly still. This keeps your body and mind in a semi-dreamlike state for 3 or 4 minutes and you can wallow in fantasy a little bit longer. As soon as you move, the spell is broken, so don’t even change positions. To remember dreams, keep a little notepad and pen next to your bed and write down every detail you can remember immediately upon awakening before you get out of bed.