It is not hyperbole to say that the realm of dreams is mesmerizing and enigmatic beyond mundane understanding, but have you ever wondered what they are for and what they can point you to about yourself? While there is no concrete answer to these questions, delving into the multifaceted world of our human brain is clearly a fascinating step to better capture what goes on when we shut down our eyes at nighttime and interpret our dreams when we wake up in the morning.
According to Michael Schredl, a dream researcher and author of Researching Dreams: The Fundamentals (2018), “dream experiences can range from thought-like reports to full-blown dreams, nightmares, and lucid dreams;” which suggests that decoding our dreams is not only a complex, unique endeavor but also a vital path to investigating our most intimate and internal worlds. Indeed, aside from their biological drive, dreams are the lens through which we can tap into our creative flow and find the tools toward a more profound experience of self-discovery, self-awareness, and rest for the logical mind.
But first, why do we dream?
Considering that we spend a substantial period of our lives dreaming, it is worth examining their part or purpose in helping us process both our outer and inner domains. Dreams happen during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycle, a state (usually arriving about an hour and a half after falling asleep) where brain activity is most active and comparable to the awakened brain. Apart from augmented brain activity and muscle relaxation, in REM, sleep is not as deep, and intense dreams are not unusual. Thus, the occurrence, interpretation, vehemence, remembering, and length of dreams vary wildly from individual to individual.
Some of the most agreed-on statements among sleep and dream scientists are that dreaming may allow us to process and regulate our emotions, help with standard sleep functions, reinforce and consolidate memory, and alleviate mental space. Thus, while dreams might appear to have no tie to our conscious state, these biological processes do have a strong force in our everyday lives.
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Moreover, in line with the neurobiology of dreams, dreaming also offers an incredible similarity with some notions of psychoanalysis, specifically, a universe where dreams convey an experience of our most emotional, unhindered concerns and emotions. Among these advantages is a reassuring neurochemical balm that pacifies bitter memories where the brain integrates both past and present wisdom, boosting self-knowledge and creativity.
Dreams can tell us about our personalities but also our unique brain functioning.
Besides being a window to our beautifully intricate psyche and emotional cosmos, dreams can inform us about our health, drawing a path from our subconscious mind into our conscious realities. They can tell us about our current mindset, ways of feeling and thinking, and overall approach to how we are living and digesting life. In addition, research suggests that dreams may play an evolutionary role not only in assisting our brains and bodies reset each day but also in helping us self-regulate and identify potential threats in our awakened lives.
In short, more research is necessary to fully tap into dreams’ biological, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual purposes, but letting curiosity guide us toward this mysterious world is not just enchanting but paramount to fostering and nourishing more in-depth self-understanding.