Why We Dream
We've all had them. Flat out nightmares, or good dreams. And when we awaken from a dream or nightmare, we are either relieved or disappointed. When we fall asleep, our body is at rest. But that does not mean our heads are. During the rapid eye movement cycle of our sleep, the cells of our brains fire away, sending energy that helps develop those dreams, whether good ones or bad ones. The phenomenon of dreams, why we dream what we dream has long been a mystery. And researchers have long delved into figuring out what makes us dream the way we do. Studies have gone on forever and scientists have come up with new research on why we dream.
What Dreams Mean
The brain never sleeps. And scientists are finding that perhaps part of the reason we dream is to solve problems or creatively fix issues that plague us during the previous day. Just as a computer needs to reboot, so does the brain. And dreaming helps us do that.
Dream StudyAccording to new research, if you are a night owl, you just may have more nightmares. The research centered around 250+ college students, where a survey was taken on nightmare frequency. Those students that stayed up late experienced nearly twice as many nightmares as those that went to bed early. Researchers are not sure why this is, but suspect the difference has something to do with the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, which is most prevalent in the body right before awakening. During REM or dream sleep, the cortisol is released in larger quantities, which can result in more realistic, vivid dreams or even nightmares.
What Does a Dream Mean?
- Believe it or not, you can control your dream's outcome, especially if you play video games. Playing video games or "gaming" allows us to live in a different reality, and we have the ability to control the outcome of the game. Researchers concluded that people that play video games regularly have more lucid dreams and that they can change the course of their dreams because of their practice with video games. They look at their dreams as a video game, where they can control the outcome. In short, if the dream is getting scary and turning into a nightmare, these people can shift it to a more positive dream. This discovery can be helpful with veterans that are still traumatized by their war experiences and eliminate post-tramatic stress disorder.
- Violent dreams, where you act out in your dream by sitting up, kicking and screaming can be an early sign of a neurodegenerative disorder, dementia, or Parkinson's disease. Called REM sleep behavior disorder, acting out your dream physically by literally moving could be a warning sign. And this sleep activitiy can present itself years before the doctor or person knows about dementia or other nerve diseases.
- Men and women dream differently. Men dream about sex more (surprise, surprise), whereas women are more likely to experience confused dreams, nightmares, or the loss of someone they love.