” The physicist Albert Einstein said his career was inspired by a dream in which he was riding a sledge approaching the speed of light where all colors blended into one.”
Everybody dreams every night when they are asleep. Some people say that they don’t dream. In fact they do, they just can’t remember them.
Your dreams are messages about yourself and your life in code. They are a series of images, sounds, thoughts and emotions which form into a theme or a story. They can be about anyone or anything, and more often than not, we wake up with absolutely no idea what they were about, let alone what they mean.
They are generally based upon conscious and unconscious experiences during the past few days of your life. Overall you are aware of about 10 – 15% of your minds thoughts feelings, memories and beliefs. This is your conscious mind. The other 85% is your unconscious mind. This is where you’re negative self talk hides, all the feelings or emotions which you have hidden away over your lifetime.
A dream is both your conscious and unconscious mind working together, so in order to decipher the meanings of our dreams we must remember this when working at decoding them.
More recently, people have been taking an interest in their dreams, for a deeper understanding of themselves, as well as to enhance creativity and tap into our spiritual side.
Facts on dreaming
why do we dream while sleeping? Scientists believe that dreaming is essential for us physically, mentally and emotionally, just as much as food and water is, for our survival.
We all sleep for approximately one third of our lifetime, which is around 25 years. Within this time our dreams equate to roughly 6 years. On average, we have 1800 dreams per year, of which we barely remember any.
” The general function of dreams is to try to restore our psychological balance by providing dream material that re-establishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium.” Carl Jung
Dreams help us to get in touch with our emotions and bring imbalances to our attention. The subconscious mind processes information from our every day life, anxieties, fears, stresses and repressed feelings, then brings them to the surface to be sorted through for healing to take place. Dreaming provides a safe outlet for this to happen.
The 5 stages of sleep
Stage 1 of non-REM sleep
When you first fall asleep, you enter stage 1 of non-REM sleep. This is characterized by the cessation of muscle movement and the slow movement of the eyes behind the eyelid. This is the “twilight” stage of sleep where you are probably still aware of some things going on around you. This is a light stage of sleep and you can usually be woken by noises or other disturbances.
Stage 2 of non-REM sleep
This is the stage where you are actually fully asleep and not aware of your surroundings. During stage 2, the heart rate and breathing regulate, the body temperature goes down, the eye movements either slow or stop completely.
Stage 3 of non-REM sleep
Brain waves slow down in stage 3 with only a few bursts of activity. This is a deep sleep where muscles relax and breathing slows even more. This stage of sleep is difficult to awaken from and you may feel disoriented if an alarm or disturbance pulls you out of it.
Stage 4 of non-REM sleep
Stage 4 is an even deeper sleep where the brain waves further slow and sleepers are very difficult to wake. It’s believed that tissue repair occurs during the stage of sleep and that hormones are also released to help with growth.
Stage 5: REM sleep
The final stage of sleep is REM and this is the cycle where we dream. The eyes move rapidly behind the lids and breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Blood pressure and heart rate also increase during REM sleep and the arms and legs are paralyzed so that sleepers can’t act out their dreams. The brain waves during this stage are similar to those when we are awake. The purpose of this stage is thought to stimulate the sections of the brain that are needed for memory and learning and a way for the brain to store and sort information. REM sleep occurs approximately 90 minutes into the sleep cycle. This cycle is repeated roughly 4 times per night.
The above chart represents the 5 stages Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta and REM sleep, which are the 5 stages of consciousness. It is during the final stage, REM that dreams take place.
Theories on dreaming
Austrian Sigmund Freud, suggested that dreams are part of the unconscious desires, motivations and thoughts. He believed that hidden or repressed urges play out in dreams which we would not be free to express whilst awake, tending to be sexual fantasies which have originated from childhood. According to Freud, dreams are full of symbols which we must discover the hidden meaning of in order to discover the unconscious desire. He used a technique called, ” free association” where the dreamer spontaneously speaks the first word that comes to mind upon awakening. He believed that this word would explain the meaning of the dream.
Carl Jung, believed that dreams were more to do with the ” collective unconscious”. He suggested that dreams were our way of our unconscious mind bringing into balance our emotional and psychological state. Jung believed that the unconscious expresses itself in our dreams with archetypes and symbols, which offer insight and more meaning into our waking life.
Austrian psychologist, Alfred Adler, suggested that the power of dreams lies in the feelings that they inspire. The ultimate in fantasy which can be experienced through dreams not in life.
According to the information-processing theory, sleep allows us to consolidate and process all the information and memories that we have collected during the previous day. Some dream experts suggest that dreaming is a byproduct, or even an active part, of this experience processing
This model, known as the self-organization theory of dreaming, explains that dreaming is a side effect of brain neural activity as memories are consolidated during sleep. During this process of unconscious information redistribution, it is suggested that memories are either strengthened or weakened. According to the self-organization theory of dreaming, while we dream, helpful memories are made stronger, while less useful ones fade away.
The bottom line is, while many theories have been proposed, no single consensus has emerged on why we dream.