We often discuss how sleep works, the effect’s sleep deprivation has on your body, and how you can get a better night’s rest. It isn’t often that we bring up dreaming. We’ve discussed what dreams are and when you have them, and we’ve delved into nightmares and night terrors. But, we haven’t really explored why we dream.
The exact explanation as to why we dream, unfortunately, does not currently exist. Scientists are still trying to figure it all out. Though they have never found concrete evidence as to why we experience this phenomenon every night, there are several theories as to what the answer may be. We decided to focus on four theories that we thought you might find interesting.
Why We Dream Theory #1: Dreams Provide Therapy
When we dream we are often forced to face emotional situations that are happening in our real life. This allows us to deal with our emotions in a safe environment. Facing emotional issues in dreams allows our brains to make connections that they would likely have not made otherwise, allowing us to look at the circumstances in a new light and maybe understand something new about ourselves. It may be just what we need to cleanse ourselves of whatever is causing us anger, fear, envy, and other such emotions.
Why We Dream Theory #2: Dreams Teach Us How to Respond to Threats
When we dream, we often find ourselves being chased, fighting an enemy, or naked in public. According to Psychology Today, these dreams are a result of our amygdala (our “fight-or-flight” reflex) firing at a more rapid pace during REM sleep (the stage of sleep where most dreams occur) than it does during waking hours. During REM sleep the amygdala fires in a way similar to how it would if your life were in danger. Also, the part of our brain that practices motor activity, such as running or punching, fires more frequently during REM sleep, though we remain still. So, some scientists believe that we use our dreams as a way to practice our fight-or-flight responses- even when we remain still.
Why We Dream Theory #3: Dreams Help You Practice a Skill
Some scientists believe that our dreams give us an opportunity to practice for life events such as a review at work, a sports event, and other such things. According to the Harvard Business Review, when people imagine practicing a skill or sport during “lucid dreaming,” the state in which a sleeping person recognizes he’s in a dream and takes control of it, their performance in that activity improves in real life.
Why We Dream Theory #4: Dreams Help Us Remember What is Relevant
Psychology Today states that sleep turns a flood of daily information into what we call wisdom: the stuff that makes us smart for when we come across future decisions. We don’t remember everything that happens in our waking lives. If we did, it would be an overload of information for our brains. So, when we dream, our brains shuffle through everything that was remembered and keeps what we need and discards the rest. In other words, when we dream, our brains reevaluate what is important and what’s not.
While we may not know the meaning of our dreams, or why exactly we do dream, it appears that they are meaningful to our brain, our sleep, and ourselves.
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center has been providing diagnostic testing for a multitude of sleep-related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. Our physicians are Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists and are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. For more information, go to www.valleysleepcenter.com.