Why do we dream? – Amy Adkins

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In the third millenium BCE, Mesopotamian kings recorded and
interpreted their dreams on wax tablets. A thousand years later, Ancient Egyptians wrote a dream book listing over a hundred common dreams
and their meanings. And in the years since, we haven’t paused in our quest
to understand why we dream. So, after a great deal
of scientific research, technological advancement, and persistence, we still don’t have any definite answers,
but we have some interesting theories. We dream to fulfill our wishes. In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud proposed that while all
of our dreams, including our nightmares, are a collection of images
from our daily conscious lives, they also have symbolic meanings, which relate to the fulfillment
of our subconscious wishes. Freud theorized that everything
we remember when we wake up from a dream is a symbolic representation of our unconscious primitive thoughts,
urges, and desires. Freud believed that by analyzing
those remembered elements, the unconscious content would be revealed
to our conscious mind, and psychological issues stemming
from its repression could be addressed and resolved. We dream to remember. To increase performance
on certain mental tasks, sleep is good, but dreaming while sleeping is better. In 2010, researchers found that subjects were much better
at getting through a complex 3-D maze if they had napped and dreamed
of the maze prior to their second attempt. In fact, they were up to
ten times better at it than those who only thought of the maze
while awake between attempts, and those who napped but did not dream
about the maze. Researchers theorize that certain
memory processes can happen only when we are asleep, and our dreams are a signal
that these processes are taking place. We dream to forget. There are about 10,000 trillion
neural connections within the architecture of your brain. They are created by everything you think
and everything you do. A 1983 neurobiological theory of dreaming,
called reverse learning, holds that while sleeping,
and mainly during REM sleep cycles, your neocortex reviews
these neural connections and dumps the unnecessary ones. Without this unlearning process, which results in your dreams, your brain could be overrun
by useless connections and parasitic thoughts could disrupt
the necessary thinking you need to do while you’re awake. We dream to keep our brains working. The continual activation theory proposes
that your dreams result from your brain’s need to constantly
consolidate and create long-term memories in order to function properly. So when external input falls
below a certain level, like when you’re asleep, your brain automatically triggers the generation of data
from its memory storages, which appear to you in the form of
the thoughts and feelings you experience in your dreams. In other words, your dreams might be
a random screen saver your brain turns on so it doesn’t completely shut down. We dream to rehearse. Dreams involving dangerous and threatening
situations are very common, and the primitive instinct
rehearsal theory holds that the content of a dream
is significant to its purpose. Whether it’s an anxiety-filled night of
being chased through the woods by a bear or fighting off a ninja in a dark alley, these dreams allow you to practice
your fight or flight instincts and keep them sharp and dependable
in case you’ll need them in real life. But it doesn’t always have
to be unpleasant. For instance, dreams
about your attractive neighbor could actually give your reproductive
instinct some practice, too. We dream to heal. Stress neurotransmitters in the brain
are much less active during the REM stage of sleep, even during dreams
of traumatic experiences, leading some researchers to theorize that one purpose of dreaming is to take
the edge off painful experiences to allow for psychological healing. Reviewing traumatic events
in your dreams with less mental stress may grant you a clearer perspective and enhanced ability to process them
in psychologically healthy ways. People with certain mood disorders
and PTSD often have difficulty sleeping, leading some scientists to believe
that lack of dreaming may be a contributing factor
to their illnesses. We dream to solve problems. Unconstrained by reality
and the rules of conventional logic, in your dreams, your mind can create
limitless scenarios to help you grasp problems and formulate solutions
that you may not consider while awake. John Steinbeck called it
the committee of sleep, and research has demonstrated the effectiveness of dreaming
on problem solving. It’s also how renowned chemist
August Kekule discovered the structure
of the benzene molecule, and it’s the reason that sometimes
the best solution for a problem is to sleep on it. And those are just a few of the more
prominent theories. As technology increases our capability
for understanding the brain, it’s possible that one day we will discover
the definitive reason for them. But until that time arrives,
we’ll just have to keep on dreaming.

100 COMMENTS

  1. What about Dreams of Death? Why do we dream of dying or have dreams of deathly experiences? and why are these dreams so intense that a person may feel agony during and after?

  2. I dont like it anymore i remember ever dreams i have even the tinniest details. It makes me exhausted everyday.

  3. I’ve had lucid dreams my whole life, even as a child. And I think that things we dream read into our reality. Just a few weeks ago I dreamt about myself sitting at an umbrella table out in the sun with my family, a cake in the middle. Then it started raining, and the cake was melting from it, but as I looked up so was my family. They were like cake now, and we’re melting away.

    When I woke up I remembered this completely, and it’s important because I realize it reads into my relationship with my family and past. My relationship with them was getting worse and worse, and those past moments like all being together and eating together out in the sun during summer was melting away. The memory of it, the meaning, the relationships, etc.

    Also, whenever I had “scary” dreams my whole life, once again even as a kid, I’d push into my fears instead of running. I would want to understand why they scared me, and actually desired having nightmares. I found them fun and entertaining. Now I never have any. But there are some disturbing dreams here and there, but that’s usually either fun, or just uncomfortable.

    I really think that dreams aren’t like images played like a movie in our head like everyone thinks. I think it’s more like they’re shapeless ideas just in our brains. There are no images. Just feelings. Emotions. Etc.

  4. I dreamt I was sleeping with a girl , then I had went to get a pipe to smoke came back they were gone, left with another person, one I hanged out with years ago then I entered the door I was in some warehouse of many doors and random stairs. Same girl appeared next night. Further thinking tells me that person was me and I was watching through another’s eyes

  5. I always dream like I'm actually doing what I have to do and then I accidentally wake up and too late from the time I set the alarm ( I always turn off the alarm and thought I already stand up from bed and do things).

  6. What you think about reality, and reality itself, are two different things. But the mind generates thoughts and mental stories that are so creative that we confuse what we think for reality. Watch this video on how to open the mind to see things as they really are, and not so much how you think they are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBuzMrw-0Gk&t=12s

  7. Im confused, my dreams never happened in real life but I can remember everything that happens at random times and places that arent related at all with my dreams. It kinda feels like having Deja Vu

  8. Another weird thing is in some dreams, you are either experiencing it through your own perspective or just looking on from different angles like a movie…

  9. Could be prophesy, trial or hints from God.
    or a lesson from your other self in a different timeline.

  10. A common nightmare of mine is apocalypse (zombies,bird box like apocalypse)
    I think it means that I don't want to lose loved ones…

  11. I actually don't 🚫 dream 😪 which is really weird. I just go to sleep then one second later I wakeup to see that it's the next morning.

  12. You dont really remember your dream…you can say you dreamed about this and that but that was just you not awake nor asleep…

  13. I often dream of my crush best friend playing, competing, since we cannot see each other, I dream the only way to be with him😊

    It's false memories, but I'm happy to be able to see him

  14. Im the only one who sleeps and doesn't dream like i close my eyes and it's already the next day already

  15. I once, at 7 dreamed about a big square shaped mall whose was full and colorful.
    Last month I dreamed about it again.
    That time, abandoned, gray and boring.
    Nothing else but looking around then I woke up.

  16. once i tied my hair to sleep and it really bothered me,i finally fell asleep but had many dreams about waking up and taking my hair tie off as it was uncomfortable.Then i had a few dreams about day to day things i forgot to do the day before. so i think the fulfilling wishes one is accurate

  17. i'm so late to this video but has anybody ever have a dream like so long ago and then last night you kinda felt like you have a continuity of said dream? what does it mean?

  18. One time I had a dream about hugging this girl but it turned out that she was dead and I was hugging her dead body. I went into my school and saw two people and the dead girl. The two people told me that I was at odds with something. Then I woke up <:

  19. So we dream to rehearse. I had a dream where a demon attacked a bunch of us in a house, I survived, woke up and found that the movie demon night was on. Yup, turn off the tv when you sleep.

  20. What if we dream just to get by when sleeping? Like how we play games and do fun activities to past the time so it doesn't feel as long?

  21. Is it weird that i list all my dreams and what happened in there? Cuz whenever i dream it'll happen in leyk the next day week or month and its freakin creepy for me like you'll know what will happen next or you can predict what will happen :< i hate dreaming for me it's all nightmares :<<

  22. I had a dream two weeks ago and another one of the same topic 5 days ago. I thought to myself when i woke up. I want sequels

  23. Man, I've never really trained any fighting skills, but I was always playing that I'm fighting since I was a kid, and watching movies of it. Then, in many of my dreams, I actually needs to fight and that doesn't only make me remember some movements but also learn new ones. And then come one day that I really had to fight in real life after a argue, and it was against one man that was training for years but, for my surprise, I beat him without even getting hurt, and you know how? By using my skills that I got from training at my dreams 🙂

  24. I just had the most weirdest dream in my whole life today it was a bunch of dreams put together randomly…

  25. When you say that your dreaming out loud nobody beleives you. This happends to everyone if they say they are dreaming in a dream correct?

  26. Sometimes I remember my dreams, and if it's a good one, I'll continue it the next time I sleep. Anyone else who also do that?

  27. I will honestly say that most of my dreams have came true IN SOME SHAPE OR FORM. Then I find myself saying "omg I have de ja vu " ….its because I've dreamt it before.

  28. ngl I dreamt of myself doing really bad for one exam and I'd seen all the crosses and errors, and during that exam in real life I altered what I wrote (that I dreamt of that were all wrong). Is that odd…?

  29. Muslims have specific interpretations for their dreams which indicates future and it’s 100% true . I always interpreted it and turned out always correct

  30. I learned some stuff from dreaming, that I never knew in my life. In my theory our brains observed anything that we see, hear and feel. Our brain just don’t process every information when we are wake. Because In that moment our brain is under our control. When we sleep we can’t control (I meant think or do what ever we want). But when we are sleep our brain get rest. And that moment our brain starts making images, sound and feeling. From what our brain learned from our environment. Simply in my Theory, Our brain has also had will of its own. The will we keep in our control when we are awake. If you follow my theory, You will realize our brain is a living creature that’s inside us. And we are able to control it. We are not exactly our brain. Our brain is different from us. The mutual relationship between our body and brain keeps us as a one living being. I know it sounds crazy. But that’s my theory.

  31. I had a dream last night that I was attacked by an indian beak/ripped mouthed demon that spoke with a calming german accent and proceeded to paralyze me and make me watch him eat me alive

  32. Has anybody got this kind of dream that will happening in real life?

    In my case, i've dream about a little girl getting hit by a car. And it actually happend. It became scarier and more often once i got older. When i was a kid, i've dream about my mom teaching me to play a violin. And 2 days after that, my mom start giving me a violin lesson. I always had this dream in the weekend or so.

    Does anyone have that kind of dream?

  33. If we dream to rehearse, ie fighting off a bear and stuff..why can’t I run fast enough in the dream!? Or punch hard enough?..also, that “attractive” neighbor was nightmarerishly fugly.

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