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Why do we dream?

Dreams are an integral part of our sleep. We all dream every night, but the problem is we may not remember any of it. So we may assume that we don't dream. While there are others who remember their dreams vividly, so they may think that they get dreams more often than others.

Dreams are hallucinations that occur during certain stages of sleep. Dreams occur most during REM sleep (the rapid eye movement stage). But when we wake up, we may not be able to recall them.

It is believed by certain researchers that during REM sleep, the brain is sorting different impressions that were gathered when we were awake and trying to make sense of what it has recorded. It can be compared to a google search where the brain is trying to make sense of all that was recorded by us during the day - with or without our conscious efforts.

When we are awake, our thoughts have a certain logic to them. But when we sleep, our brain is still active, but our thoughts or dreams may often make little or no sense. It is believed that this may be because the emotional centers of the brain are triggering our dreams, rather than the logical regions.

Researchers in the western world still don’t entirely agree on the purpose of dreams.

There are, however, some widely held beliefs and theories such as

1. Dreams are therapuetic

2. Dreams train us to fight or flight. It may be the brain’s way of getting you ready to deal with a threat.

3. Dreams could be our muse and helps facilitate our creative tendencies.

4. Dreams could be helping us to store certain memories and solve problems

But in our Indian vedic science, dreams were believed to release us from our bodies and the natural physical laws that bind us to earth.

It is believed to be

1. the gateway to astral travel

2. an opportunity to meet beings of another world

3. an opportunity to travel across space and time

4. Messages from the Universe

As more and more research takes place in the western world on dreams, we would be able to see how much of the Eastern theories and beliefs hold water.

All we can say is that more and more self-study can give us a greater understanding of our dreams and how it contributes to the betterment of our lives. Keep a dream diary near your bed and record the dreams as soon as you wake up. Recall the dream and pen it down immediately or you will lose it.

One of the reasons dreams may be difficult to remember is that the brain chemical associated with memory — norepinephrine — and the brain’s electrical activity that helps with recall are at their lowest levels when you’re dreaming.

In fact, if you have a dream but don’t wake up during the dream, you most probably won’t be able to remember it. The dreams you remember are the ones that are occurring as you awaken.

Two ways to help recall your dreams is to tell yourself as you’re falling asleep that you want to remember your dream. If that’s your last thought, you may be more likely to wake up with a dream still somewhat fresh in your memory.

Since dream recall can be easily interrupted by even the slightest distraction, you should try to remember as much of your dream as soon as you wake up. Don’t get out of bed or think about anything else. Try to grasp whatever images or memories you have of your dream and write them down on a pad next to your bed or on your smartphone.

Do you have lucid dreams, where you are aware that you are in a dream and you are able to note down and recall all that happened there? Many musicians and peak performers use lucid dreams as a tool to get more practice so they can perform better during their awake time. It is possible to train yourself to have more and more lucid dreams so you could use them as a means to build expertise or solve problems.

Why do some of us have nightmares?

Nightmares are caused by stress, anxiety, or sometimes as a reaction to certain medicines. However, if you have nightmares often, you may be having a sleeping disorder.

Regularly occurring nightmares can be labeled a sleeping disorder if the nightmares:

  • cause anxiety about going to sleep

  • lead to frequent disruptions of your sleep

  • bring about other sleeping or psychological problems

Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as bipolar disorder and other mood-related conditions, can trigger intense and sometimes disturbing or negative dreams and nightmares. The medications for these conditions, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, are also associated with a higher risk of nightmares.

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