We frequently question ourselves if our dreams have any significance. However, in order to comprehend the message behind them, it’s necessary to first comprehend the stages of dreaming, how our brain receives the content of our dreams, and how we may participate actively in the memory process.
To interpret your dreams, you’ll need to know and accomplish the following:
In any given night, you remember approximately 10% of your dreams.
According to Tore Nielsen, a former psychologist and current head of the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory at Montreal’s Sacré-Coeur Hospital, dreams are most vivid and numerous during the rapid eye movement (REM) phases of sleep. When people are awakened from REM sleep, they have the best remember so it’s easy to know the meaning of their dreams, according to Nielsen.
REM is the stage of sleep that gives your brain and body energy, which is critical for the next day’s performance. Although your muscles are “turned off,” your brain remains working, providing the substance of your dreams.
The quality of your dreams is usually affected by the time of day. The REM stage at the start of the night may result in a brief dream, such as a movie trailer, according to Nielsen. You can experience a dream that is more like a movie later in the night, during a much longer REM period.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults experience four to six dreams every night, however they may not remember all of them.
“It’s improbable that anyone recalls more than 10% of their dreams in a night,” says Robert Stickgold, a Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry. “It’s simply that we’re dreaming too much.”
In other words, once you’re awake, you’re unlikely to have a whole image.
Your dreams are driven by your experiences and emotions.
So, where does the script for the trailers and movies that play in your brain originate from?
Nielsen defined dreams as a mash-up of early distant memories, contemporary memories, and everything in between. Many of the visuals in your dreams are from the previous day (referred to as “day residue” by Sigmund Freud) or the previous week (referred to as the “dream lag effect”).
Occasionally, you’ll experience a vision in your dreams that looks random but isn’t. As an example, Nielsen said that you may have gone to a flower show the previous weekend, and then flowers came in your dream the following week.
Although imagery from your memories may emerge in your dreams, you never relive events backwards, unless you have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Stickgold. Instead, he added, the brain selects what you dream about by evaluating which of your freshly acquired memories are the most valuable and yet are not completely understood. You also dream about the items your brain associates with that recent memory.
Stickgold presented the following example: Assume you nearly had a vehicle accident. That experience might manifest itself in your dreams in a different way, such as driving bumper cars with your son at an amusement park. He may be laughing, but you may be feeling a lot of tension.
He added that as a result of the near-accident, you may have a bad connection with bumper cars in your dream. Alternatively, the dream may assist you in downplaying the risk you initially connected with the occurrence.
According to Lisa Medalie, a behavioural sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago, “most dreams have some form of emotion in them, which generally derives from genuine feelings you’ve experienced.”
Remembering your dreams
Stickgold suggests resting in bed with your eyes closed when you first wake up. Opening your eyes and moving around might replace old memories with fresh ones.
Nielsen advised that after recalling what happened in your dream, you utilise a dream journal or app to record the specifics.
Joining a dream group, even if it isn’t guided by an expert, is another wonderful approach to digest your dream material, according to Nielsen. It may pique your interest in recalling dreams in order to engage in group discussions.
If you want to seek professional advice about a dream, Nielsen suggests finding a psychologist who employs dream analysis in their work. Some therapists may not be educated in dream interpretation, but they may utilise dreams or nightmares as a jumping off point to discuss deeper issues or a patient’s emotional reactions.