Dreams are a common human experience that can be described as a state of consciousness characterized by emotional, cognitive and sensory occurrences during sleep.
The dreamer has reduced control over the visual images and content. There is no cognitive state that has been as comprehensively studied and yet as misunderstood as much as dreaming. They are full of life experiences that have lifelike connections but with peculiar and vivid twists.
There are considerable differences between the neuroscientific and psychoanalytic approaches to dream analysis. A neuroscientist is interested in the structures involved in dream production and dream organization. On the other hand, psychoanalysis concentrates on the meaning of dreams and placing them in the context of relationships in the history of the dreamer.
Dreams can tend to be full of emotional and dramatic experiences that contain themes, dream figures, concerns, objects, etc. that match up closely to waking life. These elements create a fresh “reality” out of seemingly nothing, creating an experience with a lifelike timeframe and lifelike connections.
It is thought that five minutes after the end of a dream, we have forgotten 50% of its content, and 10 minutes later, we have forgotten 90%. Dream researchers estimate that roughly 95% of all dreams are forgotten entirely upon awakening. There are some people who have no difficulty in remembering several dreams nightly, whereas others remember dreams only occasionally.
Here are a few quick facts about dreams:
- Though a few people may not remember dreaming, it is thought that everyone dreams between 3 to 6 times per night.
- Each dream lasts between 5 and 20 minutes
- 95% of dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed.
- Dreaming can help you learn and develop long-term memories.
- Women dream more about family and children when compared with men.
- Remembering something from last week that has appeared in your dream is called the “dream-lag effect.”
- There is a difference in the quality and quantity of dreams experienced in rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement sleep.
- Half of people that appear in a dream are recognized by the person dreaming.
- Blind people dream more with other sensory mechanisms compared with sighted people.
- Both dream quality and sleep are affected by alcohol.
There are 5 phases of sleep in a sleep cycle:
Stage 1 – This is light sleep, eyes move slowly, and muscle activity slows. This stage forms 4-5% of total sleep
Stage 2 – Eye movement stops and brain waves become slower with occasional bursts of sleep spindles. This is about half of our sleep.
Stage 3 – Exceptionally slow brain waves called delta waves start to appear. This accounts for about 5% of sleep.
Stage 4 – The brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is very difficult to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, which together are called “deep sleep.” There is no muscle activity or eye movement. People awakened while in deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel dazed and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up. This is about 15% of total sleep
Stage 5 – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, where breathing becomes more rapid, irregular and shallow. Eyes will jerk repeatedly in different directions and limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Heart rate increases, and blood pressure rises. When people awaken during this stage of sleep, they often describe strange and irrational tales – dreams. This stage forms 20-25% of total sleep time.
There is still a lot of concern regarding how the brain operates while awake or asleep. It is still a mystery and may always be one. Scientists may never identify the exact nature of dreams and why humans have them, but research continues to look for answers.
Author: Blaine Pollock