We all dream during sleep. If you don’t it is because you don’t remember them. A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The various uses to which many people have put their dreams are generating more interest in the subject.
A good example is the popular Google search engine, which was ‘download’ to the inventor, a 23-year-old student Larry Page, in a dream. Today, Google is not just an internet search engine, but is really one of the world’s leading companies.
As a student, Larry Page had an irrational fear that he’d been accepted into Stamford University by mistake – which trigged an anxiety dream. He imagined that he could download the entire web onto some old computers lying around, so he got up in the middle of the night to do some mathematics of it and found that the dream was possible.
The holy books have many more examples of how God sometimes communicates with people through dreams.
And there are some clergy men who use dreams to treat spiritual cases. They pray for people and urge them to take note of their dreams through which the causes of their problems are sometimes revealed.
In a study of dreams it was found that most people believe that “their dreams reveal meaningful hidden truths”. In one study conducted in the United States, South Korea and India, they found that 74 per cent of Indians, 65 per cent of South Koreans and 56 per cent of Americans believed their dream content provided them with meaningful insight into their unconscious beliefs and desires. This view of dreaming is said to have been endorsed significantly more than theories of dreaming than attribute dream content to memory consolidation, problem-solving, or random brain activity.
Researchers Morewedge and Norton also found that people attribute more importance to dream content than to similar thought content that occurs while they are awake. In one study, Americans were more likely to report that they would miss their flight if they dreamt of their plane crashing than if they thought of their plane crashing the night before flying (while awake), and that they would be as likely to miss their flight if they dreamt of their plane crashing the night before their flight as if there was an actual plane crash on the route they intended to take.
Not all dream content was considered equally important. Participants in their studies were more likely to perceive dreams to be meaningful when the content of dreams was in accordance with their beliefs and desires while awake. People were more likely to view a positive dream about a friend to be meaningful than a positive dream about someone they disliked, for example, and were more likely to view a negative dream about a person they disliked as meaningful than a negative dream about a person they liked.
Some more fascinating things about dreams are being observed as shown in a compilation by PsyBlog
Why the brain remembers dreams: Some people recall all kinds of dreams, others hardly anything. Why the big difference? Part of the reason that some people recall more of their dreams is that they wake up more in the night, even if only for short periods.
We need to be awake to encode dreams into long-term memory, otherwise they are generally lost to the night.
The dream control centre: Whether you remember dreams, then, depends on whether you are a light or heavy sleeper. High dream recallers are more reactive to environmental stimuli, awaken more during sleep, and thus better encode dreams in memory than low dream recallers. Indeed the sleeping brain is not capable of memorizing new information; it needs to awaken to be able to do that.
Daydreamers are also night-dreamers: The overlap between waking and dreaming states was at the heart of the Matrix films. Sci-fi aside, though, the film asked: when we’re awake, are we really awake or is this just another dream?
Neuroscientists have found that the parts of the brain responsible for daydreaming while we’re awake are also responsible for our dreaming while we sleep.
Effectively the neural substrate responsible for dreaming may be a sub-system of that responsible for our waking lives.
“…dreaming may be the quintessential cognitive simulation because it is often highly complex, often includes a vivid sensory environment, unfolds over a duration of a few minutes to a half hour, and is usually experienced as real while it is happening.”
Some people cannot dream: Some say that they don’t have dreams, but in all likelihood they do, it’s just that they don’t remember their dreams because they are heavy sleepers.
There are some people, though, who genuinely cannot dream.
Often as a result of brain damage from strokes, these patients can be awoken repeatedly during the night and asked about their dreams: they claim never to be dreaming
People everywhere dream about the same stuff: A study of 50,000 dream reports by US psychologist Calvin S. Hall and colleagues found that there are remarkable similarities in the way people dream all around the world:
Dreams are usually phantasmagoric: people, places, events and objects tend to merge into one another.
The most common emotion experienced in dreams is anxiety and negative emotions are much more prevalent than positive.
The vast majority of people dream in colour–if you watched monochrome TV growing up, though, you’re more likely to dream in black-and-white.
Only around 10 per cent of dreams are sexual in nature, although the percentage is higher amongst adolescents.
Recording a lucid dream: Recording what happens in the brain during a particular dream is hard. You can put people inside brain scanners while they’re asleep and then ask them afterwards what they dreamed about, but the problem is they don’t know when they dreamed it.
So it ends up being tricky matching up the brain imaging results with a particular dream.
One solution is to use lucid dreamers. These are people who have trained themselves to be aware of when they are dreaming and who can also take control of their dreams.
A recent study which used lucid dreamers this way found significant overlaps between the activity in the brain during wakefulness and during sleep One of the authors, Michael Czisch, explained: “Our dreams are therefore not a ‘sleep cinema’ in which we merely observe an event passively, but involve activity in the regions of the brain that are relevant to the dream content.”