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Dreams 101: Do You Know How and Why You Dream?

By Olivia Harlow
The human brain is a strange, utterly complex blob of gray, mysterious matter. And as scientific research expands, we only become more and more astounded by its capabilities. For decades, neurologists have performed studies on the brain’s function, including what it does when we’re asleep.


Dreams are essentially stories that our minds tell us, creating imagery and narratives that collaboratively entertain us when we’re unconscious. It’s true: the mind never sleeps. Some dreams perfectly mirror reality and freakishly make us question what actually happened the day prior, while others are totally obscure. The dreams we have can stir a range of emotions, from happy and upbeat, to sad or uncomfortable. The little stories we tell ourselves can be sweet, scary, or incredibly strange. But why do we dream? And how?


Dreaming can begin the second our eyes close and our head hits the pillow. But during rapid eye movement (REM) is when the most vivid and memorable dreams occur. This is also when the brain is most active. Although we oftentimes forget our dreams, or only remember one, we do in fact dream every single night. And experts say for some, one night’s sleep might include up to six dreams!


Some researchers say that dreams seem to have no real purpose, while others theorize the importance of dreams for mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. In fact, dreaming has been scientifically proven to alleviate tension, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. Additionally, dreams in REM can benefit concentration, coordination, memory, and weight management. It’s quite possible that if you go to bed with a troubling thought, you might wake up with a solution. And if you go to bed frantic and anxious, a positive dream might help dissolve any worry or fear. Renown neurologist Sigmund Freud believes that dreams can serve as windows into the soul, revealing a person’s innermost ideas, desires, and motivations.


One thing scientists do know is that even during rest, our brains work to sort through infinite information and decide what ideas are worth hanging on to versus what’s okay to forget. Whether or not dreams play a role in this process is still unsure, but at the very least, dreams serve as a distractive entertainment while the mind is still hard at work. While no one is still entirely certain what the physiological or psychological truths of dreaming entail, isn’t the mystery what makes the dreams all the more interesting? Next time you snuggle up into bed at night, prepare to be amazed by what’s inside your head.
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