We have always been fascinated by our secret brain activity at night but have never quite found a clear explanation as to why this happens. Dreaming can be defined as an act of our unconscious desires during the REM stage of sleep, whether it’s a story, image or person. Although this may be a connection of emotions, desires and nightmares, the context of our dreams can range widely.
What Are Dreams?
Believe it or not, dreams occur as a result of being in the deepest stage of sleep. They are a succession of images, thoughts and ideas that are formed by the unconscious brain. Dreams have fascinated psychologists for years because there appears to be no real explanation for the reason of their occurrence, or how they form in the first place. They are also difficult to test in order to gain a more scientific explanation. As a product of the unconscious brain, some people believe that dreams have more significance than we realise. Some believe that it is a way of telling us something about our past, present or future while others believe it is a reflection of our inner thoughts and how we truly feel. The latter is a Freudian theory in which dreams supposedly reveal our secret desires that we don’t wish to express in public. However we choose to understand dreams, no one can deny they are a natural feature of sleeping.
The Unconscious Brain
The unconscious brain is a difficult element to interpret as part of our brains. It is a source of things we may not even be aware of, such as hidden beliefs, desires and learned skills we can’t explain such as how to ride a bike or how to eat and drink. Our instinct for everyday things are also sourced from the unconscious and dreams are a way of reflecting our involuntary thoughts we didn’t know we had. Some people also believe that the unconscious brain and the dreams that stem from it help us to solve problems we can’t solve in real life. It is almost as if our spirit is trying to communicate with us. However, dreams are in fact a result of the unconscious and conscious combined. Furthermore, while the unconscious brain has a certain scientific explanation, it also has a philosophical nature. This is because it apparently reserves our true thoughts and feelings about life.
Scientists continue to speculate the reason for dreaming and we have a listed a few theories in this blog as to why dreaming occurs.
If you think about each day as whole, your brain has had to work very hard to keep you active. This is why one theory of dreaming is because your brain needs to process this information to decide what to keep hold of and what to forget. Almost like a winding down process, sleep gives the brain time to sort everything it has encountered during the waking hours.
There is also some research to suggest that memories are formed in our sleep while our brain is in the process of collecting information. Some have suggested that the more we learn during the day, the more our dreaming increases. Converting short-term memories into long-term memories is another activity that the brain may be doing whilst we are dreaming.
As an outlet of our emotions and desires, dreaming provides the perfect way of interpreting what we really want and need. Even during the day, we may have ‘day dreaming’ where our mind focuses on elsewhere when we don’t have to, or don’t want to concentrate on something.
Lack Of Focus
Whilst our body and our mind slow down at night, we don’t have to focus on anything and this lack of concentration may be one of the reasons for the loose connections the brain makes whilst dreaming. If you are worried about something during the day, chances are that while it is lying heavily in your mind, you will dream about it quite obviously.
While many people would like to believe that the body and the mind is trying to tell us something through dreaming, does it actually serve no purpose at all? As the context of dreams can be so random and disconnected, this suggests that dreaming may simply be the winding down of the brain at night. Even in slumber, it is our brain that doesn’t completely shut down and so dreaming may be considered as a meaningless activity as it has nothing to focus on.
While we cannot fully understand or define what dreams are or why we have them, they are a concept that is completely open to interpretation. While this may be a good thing, no one will ever really know the answer. Considering we spend around 25 years of our lives asleep, it may be useful for us to know the meaning behind our dreams! However, it is normal for people to have ‘common’ dreams, meaning we can share the same thoughts and experiences as others, but without losing their individuality. No one dream can be the same and the best person to interpret your own dream is yourself. On the other hand, some have suggested that dreams have no real purpose and are meaningless simply because they are only a by-product of deep sleep. Dream content is entirely creative and it all derives from the dreamer’s unconscious mind. This suggests that the aspects of a dream are symbolic, it is just not clear what our unconscious is trying to communicate with us.
Is dreaming just another mystery of the brain, or is there really a purpose to it? Whatever your thoughts on it, dreaming is something that our brains have always done and always will!