Before you start reading, we feel its only right that we make a small confession. The title of this blog is a little misleading as seemingly dreaming cannot be explained at all just yet…In spite of thousands, (if not millions) of hours of research, we are still a long way from understanding exactly what dreams are, just what purpose they serve, and how they benefit our lives. That said, our study of dreams has not been entirely wasted and certain postulations appear to hold some weight, albeit not enough weight to be considered irrefutable fact.
What are Dreams?
This is a difficult and frustrating question to answer. We all intuitively know what a dream is, we have been unable to agree upon a universally accepted definition. The closest we have come to such a definition suggests that dream are: “all perceptions, thoughts, or emotions experienced during sleep.”
Why Do We Dream?
This is still one of the behavioral sciences’ greatest unanswered questions. Just like the huge raft of theories surrounding what dreams are, there are as many theories as to why we dream at all.
In her 2015, Amy Adkins attempts to further explain why we dream in her Ted Talk, but as you can now understand, this is so far from an exact science
Some researchers say dreams have no purpose or meaning and are nonsensical activities of the sleeping brain. Others say dreams are necessary for mental, emotional, and physical health. Including: reducing tension, anxiety, depression and improving concentration and coordination
However, these studies are far from conclusive and when placed under intense scrutiny, only go a small way in explaining why we do it.
Threat Simulation Hypothesis:
This theory suggests that dreams may provide a sort of virtual reality simulation in which we can rehearse threatening situations, even if we don’t remember our dreams. Evidence supporting this comes from the large proportion of dreams which include a threatening situation (more than 70 percent in some studies) and the fact that this percentage is much higher than the incidence of threats in the dreamer’s actual daytime life.
Mood Regulation Theory:
Another suggestion is that dreams influence the way you feel the next day, either in terms of mood or more general states of mind. Forcing people to remember the nastier dreams from their REM sleep definitely puts them in a foul mood, and nightmares (defined as very negative dreams which can wake you up) may even lead to ongoing mood problems. On the other hand, there is also evidence that dreams could help to regulate long-term mood, particularly when positive dreams from REM sleep are recalled.
So, there we have it a blog entitled ‘Dreams Explained’ does nothing of the sort. However, it does serve a purpose and that purpose is to remind us that we don’t know everything and that is a beautiful thing. We can still marvel in mystery and while many people have dedicated their lives to the research of dreaming, that we are still no nearer to understanding what they are or why we do it. As psychologist and spiritualist Eckhart Tolle explains:
“Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you”