Dreams have always been the most fascinating parts of sleep. We spend one-third of our life sleeping and typically have around 3 to 6 dreams per night that last for approximately 5-20 minutes. Funnily enough, for how much we dream, we haven’t even been given the ability to remember 95 percent of them, especially ones that make us feel good.
Researchers, scientists, and psychologists have been working for ages to determine the answers to questions dealing with the very nature of dreams. There have been some interpretations that interpret dreams as unconscious desires or cognitive simulations of real-life experiences. They could also be mechanisms that help the brain prepare for possible future threats. However, scientists do not have rational explanations for these interpretations yet.
Could dreams be trying to convey something about the afterlife? Or are they making us binge watch our memories in our sleep? Let’s look a little deeper into how dreams work.
Sleep comprises five main phases, and dreams have been reported to occur in the 5th stage of sleep, called the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. During this stage, breathing becomes rapid, irregular, and shallow. Eyes quiver rapidly in various directions, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Often, people describe bizarre and illogical sequences when they awaken from REM sleep, which we commonly know as dreams.
Scientists have further discovered that negative dreams, or nightmares, are more commonly observed in subjects, which could probably be explained by the increasing pessimism in society. Several factors can affect the emotional content of dreams, like anxiety, stress, and certain medications. A study found that external stimuli, including pleasant or undesirable smells, can play a role in positive and negative dreams, explaining the necessity to keep our rooms clean.
Although we don’t quite comprehend how dreams work yet, it seems clear that the sleeping brain is somehow freed of constraints and can thus create entire sequences of free associations. This is not only useful for creativity but also helps facilitate lateral thinking and problem-solving. Perhaps their true purpose could be integrating new memories with more distant ones. Dreams are certainly valuable enough to have evolved through natural selection, giving us enthralling adventures every night during our sleep. Proven to be an irresistible research topic, scientists will probably continue to investigate dreams for many years to come.