The Meaning of Dreams
By Emily Battaglia
Did you dream last night? Is a vivid dream you had last week still on your mind? Or perhaps you woke up and couldn’t remember what you’d dreamt about even though it was so good you didn’t want it to end. Dreams are a common part of everyone’s beauty rest. In fact, it’s estimated that we’ll spend about six years dreaming during our lifetime. With so much time spent dreaming, doesn’t it make sense that our dreams are somehow relevant to our life? Find out why we dream and if dreams act as a bridge to our emotions…
The meaning of dreams has been a classic debate in scientific laboratories and psychologists offices for thousands of years. In the earliest centuries, interpreting dreams occurred in the context of religion and philosophy. Then came the famed psychologist Sigmund Freud, who believed dreams were wish fulfillments arising from our unconscious psyche.
Today, researchers are more inclined to believe that dreams are simply the result of physiological stimulations that occur during sleep. With no one clear answer, what can we really learn from our dreams? Are they truly prophetic, or something much simpler?
The Sleep Cycle
One thing experts do agree on is the majority of dreams occur during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle of sleep, which occurs at 60-90 minute intervals throughout the night.
There are five stages of the sleep cycle we go through while we rest. After the fourth stage of this cycle, which is the deepest sleep stage, REM begins.
This fifth stage of the sleep cycle is a very active stage in which the heart beat is elevated, breathing increases and blood pressure rises. The easiest way to tell if someone is in REM sleep is to check for eye movement.
REM sleep is thought to be so important to overall health that numerous studies have been conducted to determine whether or not a lack of it affects mental abilities such as memory, concentration and learning.
While lack of overall sleep is known to cause problems in these areas, so far there’s no conclusive evidence that lack of REM sleep is the culprit. (See related article: 7 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep)
What are Dreams?
When it comes to dreams, the age-old question is: Are dreams psychological or physiological?
There’s no definite answer, but one of the best physiological theories in summary is that dreams are the result of random electrical brain impulses that pull past experiences from the memory, and that dreaming takes over where the active (awake) brain leaves off.
But then there’s one of the most prominent psychological theories that comes from Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams.” He theorizes that our mind buries emotions that aren’t conscious to us, but when we dream, our mind releases those unconscious emotions.
Freud also believed many of our dreams are ways in which we act out our suppressed desires.
But what about those dreams that resemble situations from our current lives, or those common dreams we all seem to share? And if dreams are so telling of our own lives, why is it so hard to sometimes remember them?
You’re on a tropical island, swimming with dolphins, when an old flame suddenly appears, and you really want to see what happens.
But a loud beeping sound is ruining the moment. Finally, you realize your alarm is going off and you reach for the snooze button so you can get back to the dream. But now you’re awake.
How long does it take for you to forget your dream?
Too often you may know that you dreamt or remember fragments of your dream, but the longer you take to process what you were dreaming about, the more you won’t remember.
Remembering dreams is the key to interpreting them. Stay in bed an extra five minutes or so and try to capture what was just going on in your head, bringing the subconscious into your consciousness.
Once your dream is firmly planted in your conscious memory, you’ll be able to use the details for interpreting your dreams.
Interpreting Your Dreams
If some dream researchers theorize that dreams have to do with individual circumstances from our lives, why do so many people dream about the same things?
Perhaps it’s the fact that, as unique as we all are, there is a common thread of experiences we all share at some time in our lives.
If you’ve ever dreamt one of the following dreams, you’re not alone. Here are what some dream decoders say these common dreams mean:
For some, this can be a harmless dream, but for others, it’s more of a nightmare. Often, you’re being chased by someone who never catches up to you.
What could this mean? Being chased usually represents a problem you’re running away from, and the person chasing you is symbolic of where that problem comes from.
Naked in Public
Almost all of us have experienced this dream of being naked while in public, usually at work or at school.
Going naked in public is said to mean you’re trying hide something (ironic, right?), or that you’re not well-prepared for something, and people will know it. (See related article: How to Stop Procrastinating)
You’re soaring in the sky, not even necessarily by way of wings. Dream decoders believe this dream means you feel in control of your life or have recently gained a new perspective on life.
However, if you feel scared while you’re in flight, this may signal you’re hesitant to face current problems or challenges in your life.
If your tooth is loose or all of your teeth have fallen out, you may be having issues with your appearance.
You might be embarrassed about something, which could be preventing you from successfully communicating with someone (teeth are a symbol of power and communication).
So is Freud on to something when talking about interpreting your dreams? Maybe, maybe not.
The fact remains that dreams are a part of our night whether or not the meaning of dreams can be tied to what’s going on in our lives. However, we can’t deny that dreams can be powerful and intense and can impact the beginning of a brand new day.
Are You Smart About Sleep?
Do you wake up feeling rested on most days of the week, or are you just not a morning person? Getting a good night’s sleep affects every aspect of your day, including your mood and your ability to be productive. And if that doesn’t get your attention, listen up: Your sleep habits can even affect the number on the scale.