Everyone, including animals, requires restful sleep for health. While they are sleeping, a person’s body and mind is able to get the restorative amount of rest needed not only for good health, but also for energy and focus. Although individual sleep needs differ from one person to another, eight hours are often recommended. While a person is sleeping they are also dreaming. Over the course of a night, a person may dream between four to six times or more. Dreams can be pleasant or nightmarish in nature, and often raises the curiosity of the dreamer. In order to do that, it is necessary to have a better understanding of dreams in general.
The mind creates images and thoughts that play out as situations or dramas based on one’s unconscious emotions. These dramas are called dreams and primarily occur during the rapid eye movement, or (REM), stage of sleep. During this time, the brain is highly active although the body is at rest and relaxed. Humans may not be the only ones to dream while sleeping. In the past, there was no hard proof that animals actually dreamed; however, this changed in 2001. That year researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted a study in which they were able to monitor a rat’s brain and look at the firing patterns of its individual brain cells. This allowed them to interpret that the rat was dreaming.
While experts may agree what dreams are, they often disagree when it comes to why people have them and whether or not they serve any purpose. Some experts believe that dreams occur as a way of processing daily events and the feelings that are associated with them. They may also believe that dreams are a way of subconsciously working out complex situations or problems. Yet another group of researchers believe that dreams are simply brain impulses. These beliefs, or theories, generally fall into categories such as physiological and psychological. Psychological theories are the beliefs that the dream is something of importance and that figuring it out can help the dreamer in some way. One of the most well-known psychological theories on dreams was presented by Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that dreams were a way for the subconscious to act out suppressed, primal, private desires or urges. According to Freud’s theories, symbolism in dreams often, but not always, represented sexual urges. Another psychological theory about dreams was expressed by Carl Jung. Jung coined the phrase “collective unconscious,” which he believed was a collection of embedded experiences and memories inherited and shared by humanity. He believed that the collective unconscious created archetypes that presented themselves in dreams to help people solve problems.
When people dream, they may at times seem to be experiencing the same dream repeatedly. These types of dreams are called recurring dreams. They often present themselves as nightmares; however, this is not always the case. Recurring dreams reflect unresolved issues or concerns that a person has when awake, which is the primary reason why people experience them. A person’s recurring dreams may also express patterns that are recurring in the individual’s life. These patterns may be ones that the individual is unconsciously uncomfortable with or that makes him or her unhappy.
Whether a dream is recurring or not, people are often curious about their meanings. In order to interpret dreams, one must be able to recall them accurately. One way to do that is to write them down as accurately as possible immediately upon awakening. People can then read the dream and look for comparisons to their lives. Depending on the complexity of the dream, this may be simple enough to accomplish without further assistance; however, dreams often contain symbolism that increases its complexity. The Internet proves to be a good resource to look up dream symbols and signs that can be used to interpret the meaning of the dream.
As important as sleep is, dreams may be equally important. Although there is some disagreement, some researchers feel that dreams can help people in their efforts to cope with their daily lives. This is one of the reasons why it is beneficial to learn about dreams. By learning to understand what they mean a person may potentially interpret their own.
Click on the following links to learn more about dreams:
- Common Questions About Dreams
- The Purpose of Dreams
- The Tidal Wave Dream: Powerful Dreams May Help Us Cope With Powerful Emotions
- Animals Have Complex Dreams, MIT Researcher Proves
- The Meaning of Dreams
- Eastern Washington University: About Dreams
- The Characteristics of Sleep: Dreams
- How We Use Dreams
- Dreams Manual
- Sleep and Dreams
- Theories of Dreaming (PDF)
- The Health Benefits of Dreams
- Do Animals Dream Like People Do?