Although some people claim not to, everybody dreams- some scientists even suggest we dream on average five times each time we sleep. The difference in ‘dreamers’ and ‘non dreamers’ is in the length, how well we remember and realism of the dream. Those with the longest and most realistic dreams tend to be best at remembering. As you sleep, you go through different states that range from light to deep sleep. The most common time for a dream to occur is during the rapid eye movement stage of sleep (REM) which is a deeper stage of sleep. This is when brain activity is at its highest and the neurons fire at an increased rate.
Although research about dreams has been carried out for centuries, we still don’t know exactly what they mean or even why we have them. Scientists have rationalised many theories as to why we dream including learning, putting together the day’s events, our emotional state and possibly even predicting the future. However, a combination of these factors seems like a reasonably feasible explanation for now (maybe bar the latter). A more boring theory states that dreams serve no purpose at all, they just occur as some sort of ‘by product’ while we sleep. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be the case.
Aside from the mystery of why we dream, another question (possibly even a bigger mystery) is why do we forget our dreams so fast? I’m sure you can remember having a vivid dream and yet when asked what you dreamt about, feeling the frustration of not being able to recount it no matter how hard you try and rack your brain. A staggeringly high figure of around 95% is suggested for how much of your dreams you forget. Researchers such as Sigmund Freud have proposed that we forget dreams as they contain our innermost and deepest thoughts which we’d rather keep locked away. Other theories suggest that because we learn by association and repetition dreams are forgotten as they are usually too random and vague to be impregnated in the brain.
Perhaps the most mystic aspect and one that psychics love to push for, is the notion of dreams predicting the future. One of the most famous precognitive dreams (‘future sight’) is one of Abraham Lincoln dreaming about his own funeral two weeks before he was assassinated. He supposedly came across a coffin and asked who was dead, the reply- “The president.” Apparently people also predicted the sinking of the titanic. But does this prove this theory? In my opinion, no. If we each average around five dreams each night and there are 7 billion of us then surely at some point certain themes will play out. Overall I think this notion comes down to simple mathematics and chance that an event will happen following it being dreamt about.
I think the mystery of dreaming will continue to baffle us and will always be surrounded by controversy and debate. As long as we fail to fully understand the complexity of the brain, this case will remain unsolved.
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