Since humanity began communicating, mankind has asked, "why do people dream?" It's a question scientists are still sorting out. Dreams occur during one of five stages of sleep known as rapid eye movement stage, or REM.
During this sleep stage, which occurs about an hour and a half after falling asleep, the sleeper's eyes move rapidly back and forth.
Breathing is shallow and irregular and blood pressure and heart rate both increase. In many respects, REM sleep is similar to being awake, but the body does not move.
About one-fifth of all sleep occurs during the REM stage of sleep. During this time, scientists believe that one of the answers to the question of "why do people dream" is that dreaming helps facilitate necessary brain processing. When people dream, the brain is stimulated in the learning and memory regions.
According to a National Institutes of Health, animal studies indicate REM sleep is a time when the brain sorts and processes information acquired during the day. During this processing, the brain picks up old images and information, too, and reorganizes itself, rather like a filing cabinet. This reorganization is believed to present itself as dreams.
When people dream, the body enters a state of paralysis that keeps the dreamer from "acting out" the dreams. Sometimes this mechanism malfunctions and people walk or talk in their sleep.
These malfunctions, which are more common in children than in adults, are called parasomnias. They include sleep walking, sleep talking, confused arousals, sleep paralysis, acting out dreams, and night terrors.
Vivid dreams are sometimes a symptom of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder occurs when a person is overly sleepy during the day. The dreamer sometimes confuses these dreams with reality because they seem real.
People who are awakened frequently during their dream stages experience dream deprivation, which can result in increased tension and irritability, along with difficulty concentrating.
Interrupted dreaming also has been shown to cause weight gain, feelings of emptiness, and hallucinatory tendencies.
Many dreams are strange and have no relation to anything that the dreamer understands. However, often components of dreams can be traced to daily routines or things the dreamer saw or did during waking hours.
Ancient history refers to dreams and up until the time of Aristotle and Plato, dreams were thought to come from the spirit world.
Those ancient thinkers determined that dreams might be a safe way to act out unconscious desires, and 19th and 20th century psychoanalysts expanded upon this hypothesis.
Yet, when scientists ask, "why do we dream," the only thing they can be sure of is that most people dream even if they do not recall the dream episodes.
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Published by Jules Sowder