Ironically, someone talking about dreams is often enough to send you to sleep. Nothing strikes fear into your heart quite like the phrase: “You won’t believe what I dreamt about last night!” as, usually, you can believe it as it’s either complete nonsense, or incredibly dull.
But there is no doubt that we’re all interested in our own dreams. After all, they are fascinating things; clearly connected to our brains and thoughts, and yet, we are just helpless observers to a load of stuff that’s put in front of our sleeping eyes. Why has our brain chosen to show us this? Just what is it doing? What is it playing at?
And one of the most interesting types of dreams are those that are vivid and realistic; sometimes so realistic that we wake up convinced that they’ve actually happened. So what does this mean if you get these?
Michael Breus, PhD a clinical psychologist and American Academy of Sleep Medicine fellow explained to Refinery 29 that your dreams are likely based on what happened to you during the day.
“Any stressful events that the person is thinking about immediately before they fall asleep will have an effect on the content,” he says. So if you fall asleep being annoyed about that flatmate who never does the dishes, they’re likely to appear in your dreams, not doing the dishes. However, more interesting - if you’re bad at waking up on time, you might well dream that you’ve woken up, showered and then got ready to leave. This is, apparently, your brain’s way of telling you you need to sort out your morning routine.
We tend to dream more during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when the brain is most awake. Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of behavioural sleep medicine at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center, explains that stage is “a way for your brain to figure out what to remember and file away in the filing cabinet, and what to shred and forget. This is why dreams tend to be jumbled at times, but also so literal — they’re truly ways for us to consolidate emotions and memories, and to figure out what to remember and what to forget.”
If you wake up during REM sleep, it can also, apparently, make it feel more realistic.
So what about other types of common dreams?
- Being at school, or preparing to take a test that you aren’t prepared for, is a classic of the genre and seemingly a good example of a ‘dream pun’, whereby the brain uses a word or concept and gives it a different definition. In this instance, the ‘lesson’ or ‘test’ that we are facing in our dream is often one that we need to learn from our past.
- Being chased is another one that is very commonly reported and, in this instance, apparently the root cause of the dream is not the fear of being chased, but what we’re running from. It suggests that we’re not addressing something that requires our attention.
- Often people experience ‘paralysis’ during their dreams: this can indicate that the person feels they lack control in their waking life. This often happens during the chance from REM to the waking stage of sleep.
- Do you often fly in your dreams? This is another one which relates to the level of control we have in our everyday lives - and whether we feel able to achieve the goals we set ourselves. Flying high means you’re achieving what you desire, and is euphoric, but skimming low to the ground means you are frustrated.
- Deaths in your dreams may instinctively feel like a bad thing, but they’re often related to a big change in your life - the end of one thing in order that something new may start.
So if you’ve read all of this just before going to sleep, you’ll probably end up dreaming about reading about dreaming. So let us know just how weird that is for you (actually, please don’t bore us with the details).
(Image: Sebastian Sammer)