Have you ever thought about dreaming and how confusing it all is? There are so many questions people have involving dreams. Like, what do they mean? Or what’s happening in our brains when we do dream? For many years, I’ve thought the same thing and have been in awe about how much there is to know about dreams and how complex they really are. Several years of research and studies have been done and are even currently in process to understand as much as possible about dreams. In this report, we will be finding out all of the unknown questions about dreams and get to understand them a little better. I will cover why we dream, what dreams mean, and the brain psychology of dreaming. This is important in order to better comprehend what dreaming is all about and will benefit anyone wanting to learn more about dreams or hoping to find information on recurring dreams.

The big question is, why do we dream? Many sources will say there is no factual evidence for why we dream and in result like to think “dreams have no purpose or meaning and are nonsensical activities of the sleeping brain,” (Dreams: Why We Dream, Lucid Dreaming, Nightmares, Common Dreams, and More). Although, some studies have proved that having dreams is essential to human health and has an impact on the human body. In the article, “Dreams: Why We Dream, Lucid Dreaming, Nightmares, Common Dreams, and More”, a study was introduced where, “researchers woke subjects just as they were drifting off into REM sleep. They found that those who were not allowed to dream experienced, increased tension, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, lack of coordination, weight gain, tendency to hallucinate”. Many experts also say that “dreams exist to help solve problems in our lives, incorporate memories, [and help] process emotions” (Dreams: Why We Dream, Lucid Dreaming, Nightmares, Common Dreams, and More). So, some believe that if you go to sleep with something negative on your mind, you may wake up with a solution to the problem; or at least feel better about the situation.

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Many scholars from different time periods have had different theories of why we dream. Including, “Freud’s theory centred around the notion of repressed longing — the idea that dreaming allows us to sort through unresolved, repressed wishes,” (Linden). But, based on the “activation-synthesis hypothesis” dreams “are merely electrical brain impulses that pull random thoughts and imagery from our memories,” (Linden). So at this point in time, with the current research we have available, the actual reason of why we dream is technically unknown. But, studies have proved they do have an impact on us in one way or another. Including, allowing us to process memories and emotions subconsciously.

Another one of the most common questions about dreams is what do they mean? You can ask any psychologist and they might all tell you different answers. Because just like the last question, there isn’t scientific evidence to back up their theories. But, there are still countless articles and books on the topic that explain what experts and scholars like to think is the truth. There are all different types of dreams, including: nightmares and normal dreams. In normal dreams, what you’re dreaming about seems like reality and stays that way until you wake up and realize you were only sleeping. Most of the time, these dreams are generally positive and involve activities that make no sense and usually jump from one random thing to the next. When dreams turn into nightmares, we are still unaware that we’re dreaming. But, the visuals and emotions are negative and frightening and feel extremely real. Some dreams might be “strange stories that don’t relate to normal life” (Dreams: Why We Dream, Lucid Dreaming, Nightmares, Common Dreams, and More). Others might feel too familiar and remind of something that has happened in the past or feels like it could actually mean something. Some experts will say that specific dreams have one meaning, but others will say that the reasoning behind your dream is specific to you and can’t be figured out that easy.

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Reports will show that humans tend to have similar dreams to each other and often have recurring dreams as well. As told by Michelle Carr, “Recurrent dreams occur in between 60 and 75 percent of adults, and more often in women than men” and that “the common themes include: being attacked or chased, falling, being stuck, being late, missing or failing an exam, and even losing control of a car” (Carr). These type of dreams are said to reveal “the presence of unresolved conflicts or stressors in an individual’s life” (Carr). Carr explains an example of a person having a recurring dreams of missing an exam final; which was developed when they started college. But, even after completing school and moving onto their career, they’re still experiencing the dream. For instance, they have the same dream the night before an important meeting at work and this shows, “the same feelings of stress, and the desire to perform well, can trigger the relevant recurrent dream” (Carr). This proves not only that overwhelming emotions are present in the dreamer, but that there are unresolved problems in the dreamer’s life. “The Tidal Wave dream is an example…that represents overwhelming emotions such as helplessness and fear. The Tidal Wave dream is a common dream to experience following trauma or abuse, and often becomes a recurrent theme that reflects a person’s struggling with integrating and accepting the trauma” (Carr). If recurring dreams start to not happen as often or stop all together, this means that the trauma or emotions causing the dream have been resolved.

Lastly, we must ask what is happening when we dream? Research and studies have proven what is actually going on in your brain when we are dreaming. There are generally five stages that humans go through whilst sleeping: Stage 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement).

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It is possible to have dreams in the fourth stage but they happen most commonly in the last stage, REM sleep or towards the end of your sleep. “REM sleep is characterized by low-amplitude [and] fast electroencephalographic (EEG) oscillations” (Payne and Nadel). For our brains to enter REM sleep, Neurotransmitters, specifically the monoamines, have to help switch them into this stage of sleep. During REM sleep, the “activity in the aminergic system has decreased enough to allow the reticular system to escape its inhibitory influence” (Payne and Nadel). “The release from aminergic inhibition stimulates cholinergic reticular neurons in the brainstem and switches the sleeping brain into the highly active REM state, in which acetylcholine levels are as high as in the waking state” (Payne and Nadel), which allows for dreaming to occur and causes them to seem real. As said by authors: Yuval Nir and Giulio Tononi, “Perhaps the most striking feature of conscious experiences in sleep is how altogether similar the inner world of dreams is to the real world of wakefulness. Indeed, at times the dreamer may be uncertain whether he is awake or asleep. Certainly, dreams are not created in a vacuum but closely reflect the organization and functions of our brain” (Nir and Tononi).

Dreams will always be a topic that blows many people’s minds. But, with extensive studies and ongoing research, we can hopefully makes sense of it all and what they truly mean. As seen, different experts and scientists carry different viewpoints and theories on the popular questions including: why we dream, the meaning of dreams, and what happens in the brain when we’re dreaming. Although, actual evidence proves without them, our well-being wouldn’t be the same and it would affect us negatively.

Annotated Bibliography

Carr, Michelle. “What’s Behind Your Recurring Dreams?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dream-factory/201411/whats-behind-your-recurring-dreams. Accessed on 24 July 2019.

    In “What’s Behind Your Recurring Dreams,” by Michelle Carr, we learn factual evidence of what recurring dreams mean and why they happen to begin with. She explains the common themes of recurring dreams and what they mean. I will be using this article in order to have facts about recurring dreams and what they could possibly mean. The reliability of this article is average and not the strongest because the author isn’t an expert or a PhD, but it still is backed up by citations and evidence of where the information was derived from.

“Dreams: Why We Dream, Lucid Dreaming, Nightmares, Common Dreams, and More.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/dreaming-overview#1. Accessed on 24 July 2019.

    In “Dreams: Why We Dream,” from WebMD, many concept involving lucid dreaming, nightmares, and common dreams humans share are explained. The article also goes into detail about the root of dreaming and why we dream to begin with. I will be using this article to explain why we dream and what that could mean to specific people. The reliability of the article is not extremely high, but it is from WebMD so it should be credible information. Although, an author is not provided.

Linden, Sander van der. “The Science Behind Dreaming.” Scientific American, 26 July 2011, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-science-behind-dreaming/. Accessed on 24 July 2019.

In the article “The Science Behind Dreaming,”  by Sander van der Linden, we learn details from past theories and information. The article also goes into detail about MRI methods that have been used to study dreaming and what it is. I will use this piece of writing in my report to provide scholarly evidence of what dreaming is and how it happens and to give some background information on what dreams are from a scientific standpoint. I would say the reliability of Linden’s work is fairly high due to his education and the way the article is set up. The article is very professional and provides facts backed up with his college and job information.

Nir, Yuval, and Giulio Tononi. “Dreaming and the Brain: from Phenomenology to Neurophysiology.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2010, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2814941/. Accessed on 24 July 2019.

In “Dreaming and the Brain: from Phenomenology to Neurophysiology,” by Yuval Nir  and Guilio Tononi, they go into great detail on the previously known information on dreams. We as well get to hear lots of studies, facts, and some theories. I will be using this article to provide details of the difference between dreaming and being awake. The reliability of this article is very credible because the authors are experts on the topic, which I found after researching the authors in order to prove reliability.

Payne, Jessica D, and Lynn Nadel. “Sleep, Dreams, and Memory Consolidation: the Role of the Stress Hormone Cortisol.” Learning & Memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC534695/. Accessed on 24 July 2019.

In the article “Sleep, Dreams, and Memory Consolidation,” by Jessica Payne and Lynn Nadel, we learn about the connection between memory and dreams and how memory impacts dreams. The authors go into detail about the stages of sleep and how dreams fall into each of those categories. I will be using this text in my report to show more scientific evidence about what dreams are and how they happen during rem sleep compared to other stages of sleep. This article is very reliable because the authors are experts on the topic and have graduated from top universities. It is also reliable because it provides scientific facts with citations that follow to prove credibility.