The Mystery of Dreams

Dreams feel like a free portal to another dimension. Humans have about 4-6 dreams every night and we forget 90% of these dreams when we wake up. Unless it was vividly real or a bad dream; these often stick with us. Even if the details of these dreams were sketchy, we often remember the emotion it made us feel. Some dreams make us feel happy and warm while some make us laugh as we wake up. Others make us feel dread and fear. 

What exactly are dreams? How did these image sequences that we see in our sleep become an integral part of being? Dreams have been one of the oldest discussion topics among theorists, and they still continue to be mysterious. Read on to know more about the basics and importance of dreams:

Why do we dream?
Many hypotheses have been proposed as to what function dreams perform if they have a function at all. Some believe that they are simply a byproduct of biochemical processes that only occur in the brain during sleep. Renowned psychotherapist Sigmund Freud theorized that the content of dreams is driven by unconscious wish fulfillment. Carl Jung, another psychoanalyst, described dreams as messages to the dreamer and argued that dreamers should pay attention to their own good. According to Fritz Perls, dreams are seen as projections of parts of the self that have been ignored, rejected, or suppressed.

With more research being conducted in the later years, it was hypothesized that circuits in the brainstem are activated during REM sleep. Once these circuits are activated, areas of the limbic system involved in emotions, sensations, and memories, including the amygdala and hippocampus, become active. And hence, we dream. 

When do we dream?
Dreaming seems to occur most often, and most intensely, in REM sleep. This is the time when many of the brain’s neuroelectrical systems have risen to peak levels of activation, similar to the levels found when we’re awake. During this time, some areas of our prefrontal cortex (that take care of attention and rational thought) become less active, and areas in the limbic system and the occipital lobe become much more active, coupling our memories and emotions with image sequences. However, dreaming occurs outside of REM sleep, too.

Do dreams serve a purpose?
It is indicated that dreams may have two important purposes: 1) to help us reflect on our painful emotional experiences when we are asleep so that we can learn from them and carry on with our lives, and 2) dreaming helps us be more creative. It’s more or less like directing your own movie, but you’re not in control at all times.

How are scientists dealing with dreams?
Researching dreams is tough. Either you are using the less than ideal way of asking people what they dreamed about, or doing brain scans that can’t be correlated perfectly to the actual dream content. However, scientists have been able to draw connections between dream content and cultures, highlight the different ways that men and women tend to dream, and explore associations between dreaming and waking life. Research has also given us solid knowledge about nightmares, and how they are connected to our waking-life experiences of stress, trauma, and fear.

How to achieve a good night’s sleep

  • Make sure you sleep in a dark room.
  • Don’t look at digital screens at least an hour before bed. Read a book instead.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Stay away from coffee and alcohol before bed.
  • Sleep in ambient rooms, leaning towards colder temperatures.

Have fun sleeping tonight!


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2. The Science of Dreaming: 9 Key Points. Available at: Accessed on 29 April 2020.

3. Why Your Brain Needs to Dream. Available at: Accessed on 29 April 2020.

4. How scientists are studying dreams in the lab. Available at: Accessed on 29 April 2020.

5. How Do Scientists Study Dreams?. Available at: Accessed on 29 April 2020.