Understanding What Dreams Are, Reasons for Occurring and Meaning of Dreams


Everyone must have had dreams, ranging from happy or scary ones that can wake you from sleep. Until now, research is still continuing to dig deeper into various things related to dreams. Actually, what is a dream and why does it happen? Curious? Come on, find out more in the following review!

What is a dream?

Dreams are images, thoughts, and emotions that a person experiences during sleep. Usually occurs in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is the stage of sleep that makes breathing faster or irregular, and the eyes move in all directions quickly. 

This type of sleep first occurs about an hour and a half after you fall asleep and then every 90 minutes or so throughout the night. 

The dreams you experience can be very emotional, vague, brief, confusing, exciting, or even scary. 

In addition, there are also those who have a storyline or even make no sense at all. This happens because it is the emotional center of the brain that regulates, not the area of the brain that deals with something logical. 

According to the theory-driven dream-activation model of J. Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley, brain circuits are active during REM sleep, triggering the amygdala and hippocampus to create a series of electrical impulses. This combination will generate random thoughts, images, and memories that appear while a person is asleep. 

So, what is the purpose of that dream?

After understanding the previous explanation, it may occur in your mind, "why am I dreaming, huh?" The explanation is contained in the following theories. 

In "The Interpretation of Dreams," Freud wrote that dreams are "the veiled fulfillment of repressed desires." He also described two different components, namely real content (actual image) and latent content (hidden meaning). 

This Freudian theory contributed to the rise and popularity of true interpretation. Although studies fail to show that real content disguises the psychological significance of a dream, some experts believe that it plays an important role in processing stressful emotions and experiences. 

Although they may seem insignificant, according to The Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, dreams do serve several purposes, including:

Self therapy 

Dreams seem to relieve pain from difficult, even traumatic, emotional episodes that occur throughout the day. Then, offer emotional calm when you wake up the next morning. 

REM sleep is the only time when the brain is completely devoid of the anxiety-provoking noradrenaline molecule. At the same time, key emotional and memory-related structures in the brain reactivate during REM sleep when we dream. 

This means that the reactivation of emotional memories occurs in the brain that is free of key stress chemicals, allowing us to reprocess disturbing memories in a safer and calmer environment. 

Means to find solutions 

It has been shown that the stages of REM sleep combine multiple memories together in an abstract and very novel way. 

So, as long as you dream, the brain will take various existing knowledge, organize, and organize it into information. This process can create a mindset that can help you find solutions to previously unsolvable problems. 

Then, the Sleep Foundation website also mentions other goals, such as strengthening memory, helping to manage emotions and clearing the brain of unnecessary information.

However, some researchers also think that dreams can be a byproduct of purposeless sleep. 

Why are there good and bad dreams? 

Until now, what is a dream still holds many mysteries. No definitive research has found the reasons why this can happen, either fun or scary. However, this is most likely closely related to your mood and the things you experience or think about before going to bed. 

Experts from Washington State University explain that nightmares are likely to occur when you experience something that scares or makes you anxious. For example, watching a horror movie before going to bed or seeing a scary event during the day. 

As explained earlier, dreams are made up of various pieces of information and emotions that you feel. Well, it could be that your brain picks up pieces of that scary event during the day, until it pops up when you fall asleep at night. 

The good news is that most people cannot remember their dreams in detail. This is because your brain sometimes does not store things that are not important. Especially like a dream that is sometimes unclear, not grooved, and overlapping. 

Fortunately again, you can minimize nightmares by avoiding drinking alcohol or coffee before bed, taking treatment for mental illness, and improving sleep quality. 

Having nightmare disorder? This is a condition that causes a person to feel disturbed, associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear that can wake sleepers. This condition is quite rare, and likely affects adults. 

The impact of nightmare disorder is difficulty falling asleep because of fear, often waking up at night, and having trouble doing activities well during the day because of sleepiness. 

People who are at risk for this condition are people with PTSD, have anxiety disorders or experience stress, and are taking antidepressants or high blood pressure medications. If you have persistent nightmares, do further check with your doctor. 

Do dreams have meaning?

Most people believe that dreams have a message or meaning for those who dream them. That's why, many people want to know what it means. 

How to interpret the meaning, indeed attracts attention and becomes a debate. Some psychologists argue that this provides insight into a person's psyche or daily life, and is closely related to real experiences that have been experienced. 

While others think that dreams are inconsistent, not conceptualized, and overlapping so that it is quite confusing to take their meaning. Moreover, its contents can change or its meaning depends on the person who dreamed it. 

For example, in describing, people often refer to a figure they clearly  recognize when their appearance is distorted. Until now, there has been no further research on the certainty of the meaning of dreams. Even so, it is very likely related to the daily life of the person who dreams of it.