Dreams are a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep. They occur during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, with REM occurring approximately every 90 minutes while we sleep. Medical News Today says that everyone is thought to dream between 3 and 6 times per night, with each dream lasting between 5 and 20 minutes. While some researchers say dreams have no purpose or meaning, others say we need dreams for mental, emotional and physical health. I read that people whose sleep was interrupted as they were going into REM sleep — therefore not allowing them to dream — suffered from more tension, anxiety and depression and also had greater difficulty with concentration and coordination.
Nightmares are bad dreams that may occur due to stress, trauma, or emotional problems. Just like dreams of a more pleasant nature, recurring nightmares might be trying to tell you something — so pay attention. But remember that they are only dreams and not actually happening in real life!
Do animals dream? Scientific studies have determined that almost all animals appear to go into REM sleep. If humans dream in REM sleep then we might conclude that animals are doing so as well. I have watched one of my cats while he sleeps, and have seen his paws moving as though he’s running, his whiskers twitching, making noises similar to when he’s awake and watching birds outside the window. There is no doubt in my mind that he’s dreaming.
Something that might occur during late-stage REM sleep is lucid dreaming. In a lucid dream the dreamer is aware that they’re asleep yet are to some extent able to control events within the dream. In lucid dreams, at least two states of consciousness — a wake-like, metacognitive state and a dreaming state — appear to be mixed together. Lucid dreamers also appear to have increased activity in regions of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain that are typically inactive during sleep. These parts of the brain are deeply involved with conscious awareness and a sense of self, as well as language and memory. Aristotle was a lucid dreamer and wrote “During my dream, I suddenly became aware that what I was now experiencing was just a dream.”
There is a spiritual aspect of lucid dreaming called Tibetan Dream Yoga. Uplift.com shares this: “The ultimate goal of dream yoga is to be fully awake when you die, which is one of the Bardo states. To be fully awake when you die, you need to be fully awake when you live and one of the cleverest ways to stay awake when you live is to start becoming awake in your dreams. So in Tibetan dream yoga, one starts to become first acquainted with the idea of life being a dream, an illusion. You start keeping this in your mind when you are carrying out your daily business at home, at work, with friends or wherever. You reinforce the idea that what you perceive or feel or think are just parts of a dream state. This will finally pierce through your consciousness and together with meditative practice to still the mind, and being more attentive to your dreams, finally a shift in consciousness happens in which your dreams start changing. One would start having short episodes of lucidity, until after some time it becomes a regular thing.”
Do you remember your dreams? If so, are they crisp and clear or jumbled and hazy? Black and white or in glorious technicolor? One-offs or recurring? A 2015 study found that 1 in 250 people report never remembering their dreams. Even those who wake up remembering dreams generally forget 50 percent of the dream within 5 minutes of awakening, and that increases to almost 90 percent within 10 minutes. Women tend to remember dreams more often than men. Light sleepers are more likely to remember dreams because waking up for even 1 or 2 minutes between dreams gives the mind an opportunity to embed the dream into long-term memory.
Want to remember more of your dreams? Just as you are drifting off to sleep tell yourself that you want to remember your dreams and/or ask your higher self to help you do so. Waking up without an alarm clock will also help because your dream may linger in your mind rather than your brain focusing on the annoying diversion. Quickly jot down any details of the dream for use in dream interpretation. Sigmund Freud was the first to study dreams as a field of psychology and he published ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ in 1899. There are many books on dream meanings, and I have two recommendations in the Resources section below.
I believe that dreams can be powerful. Dreams don’t predict the future, but may influence your actions, and those actions may greatly impact your future. Dreams may answer questions that have been weighing on your mind, open a window into scientific discoveries or inspire creativity (as was the case for Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”).
Over the past several years my dreams have definitely brought some insights. I have learned to pay attention, to delve for the deeper meaning, and to accept that my subconscious — through dreams — provides the best and most powerful guidance possible. I wish the same for you.
- Take a dream awareness test
- Quiz to interpret one specific dream that you’ve had
- Video on 7 Things Your Dreams Say About You
- Two books I like are “The Dream Book” by Betty Bethards and “The Mystical Magical Marvelous World of Dreams” by Wilda B. Tanner
“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.” ~ Marsha Norman
“Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.” ~ Sigmund Freud
“Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.” ~ Virginia Woolf
“The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.” ~ Sigmund Freud