Ever wondered what a dream is? What is my mind doing as my body spends hours in bed? Where does this nightly plunge into the realm of our inner unknown really take us? We’ve all experienced a heap of crazy, scary, or enjoyable dreams. These dreams give some flavor to the otherwise quiet and boring hours where your body is completely inactive. Or is it?
By definition, dreams are thoughts, images, sequences and sensations experienced during sleep. They could include a wide range of activities, from eating cereal to going skydiving, and may mirror people or events in your real life. Some believe dreams to be a direct or indirect indicator of what’s going on in our unconscious mind, as did Sigmund Freud who called dreams the “royal road” to the unconscious.
Our dreams are electronic impulses being detected and deciphered by the cortex of our brain. These impulses could be memories of something in the past days, weeks, or years, even something as simple and mundane as eating breakfast. When our brain receives these electronic signals, it attempts to make sense of them, organizing them into a kind of story. These stories(or dreams) are usually random sequences and don’t make any sense to us — and are really not supposed to.
At several intervals in a night, we enter what is called REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. In this stage, we experience more bodily movement (including rapid eye movements duh), faster breathing, and we are in our most likely state to have a dream. While this stage only lasts for a short time, it is the most important stage when it comes to dreaming.
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, and you feel so tired that you easily fall back asleep after a few seconds? This is because you were in REM sleep when you were awoken. When we are asleep and dreaming, our brain ceases the production of several chemicals that tell our body to move, so that we don’t act out our dreams. This is referred to as REM A-topia.If the body does not achieve REM A-topia, the body could wake up and start moving around without the person being aware of it. This is why people can sleep walk around and not remember anything when they eventually wake up.
Another phenomenon that’s possible while in REM sleep is called lucid dreaming. You’ve probably heard of it. Simply put, a lucid dreamer is a person who is dreaming and knows they are dreaming. They are awake all while they are dreaming, and thus able to make conscious decisions inside the dream.
But there are still so many unanswered questions about how dreams are made, what causes them, and what their contents mean. Although new scientific discoveries are being made all the time regarding dreams, we still have a long way to go before we have a comprehensive understanding of this phenomena.
Tell me what you think about dreaming. Do you enjoy it? Think it’s weird or scary?