Even though Sigmund Freud had been the first psychoanalyst to discuss the importance of dreams, dreams have been in our eyes long before he tried to convince everyone of its importance, and we continue to dream long after his time period. Whether remembered in the morning or not, humans dream multiple times a night. As to why we dream, theories vary along a broad controversial scale.
Many researchers think that dreams help the brain sort, sift and fix the day’s experiences in memory. Others believe that neural activity and development cause dreams, while others argue that dreaming is part of the brain’s cognitive and maturation development. Then, there is Frued who believed dreams allowed us to fulfill our deepest wishes that could not be executed in real life. His theory states that there are two parts of dreams. One is the manifest, which is the apparent storyline, while latent content has underlining, symbolic meanings.
To first understand why we have dreams, we have to understand what the dream state is.
A regular sleep cycle lasts 90 to 120 minutes, and repeat from four to seven times a night. In this cycle, one’s body runs through Stages 1,2,3,4 and then REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
Stage 4 of sleep is considered the deepest period of sleep. It can be very difficult to be awakened from this stage. Dreams can also occur, but are less well formed and may have more emotional impact. Night terrors commonly arise from stage 4 sleep.
After this deep sleep, REM occurs, where dreamers dream their most vividly. The heartbeat increases as well as blood pressure and eye movements in REM. However, body movements become paralyzed, so that one does not act out his/her dream. In all stages, dreams are alive. Only in REM, however, are they typically remembered, particularly those closer to the morning as one awakens. The length of the dream periods become longer as the night continues on.
“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers” (1849).
Perhaps, the truth lies between the many theories. Perchance, we dream as a creative outlook as the brain processes the day’s information, converting short-term memory into long term memory while neurotransmitters rebuild.
As a writer, the most prominent, creative and imaginative settings and creations are fabricated and brought to life through remembered dreams. In this unconscious state, as Frued suggested, we leave behind ambition, awareness of others and a desire to be accepted into the social norm. Without these blocks, then perhaps we are free to roam other desires and wishes. As to what we wish, differs from what Freud thought.
More often than not, a person who deals with any type of creativity becomes blocked, unsure of the next steps to take. In a way, the conscious mind keeps us uninspired, as if focusing on what has already been created and pictures that relate to the already accepted.
However, when one falls asleep, the conscious mind sleeps as well, allowing the subconscious mind to dominate. Following the road very well traveled by others does not inhabit this portion of the brain. It throws out the typical thought of responses and creates another world. These dreams brought to being from the subconscious, is what we awake to, thus incorporating the dreams as solutions to problems.
Dreams analyze our daily life, our questions and then interpret them into something more. Kenway Louie and Matthew A. Wilson, neuroscientists at MIT, have been conducting research since the 1990’s with rats, proving that dreams are more than non-sequiturs. After learning a new maze, the rats sleep. During that sleep, their brain waves display the same waves, as they were when they were actively learning the maze, thus showing that they were dreaming about their daily life. Dreaming about daily life helps us come to terms and understand major and simple dilemmas that we constantly face.
“But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be,” said Tom Schulman in the Dead Poets’ Society (1989) as character John Keating. For as long as we have been dreaming, do the theories of why list. Even though, the controversial debate of the why’s and how’s remains complicated, nearly everyone agrees that dreaming and sleeping stands to be one of the most important and intriguing functions of the human body.