All About Dreams
While we sleep our brains are active—busy firing neurons, processing information and consolidating memories. They’re also entertaining, enlightening and maybe even frightening us for about two hours each night—with dreams. Most dreams happen during the rapid eye movement, or REM, phase of sleep, when breathing becomes quick, irregular and shallow. Our eyes might be closed and appear at rest, but underneath our lids, they’re moving rapidly in different directions. Our heart rate and blood pressure are rising, too.
But what do our dreams mean?
Dream interpretation has a long history, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who believed them to be divine and a means of receiving messages. Later, Sigmund Freud came up with his own theory, viewing dreams as a way to express our most unconscious desires. But there’s science behind our dreams, too.
Dreaming to De-stress
Reliving a bad memory or experience through your dreams may help you get over the trauma, according to scientists at the University of California, Berkeley. They say that REM sleep helps suppress the stress chemicals in our brain and instead strengthens the brain’s more rational side. Our thoughts and memories are in a safer place, thus rendering us better equipped to soften those rough edges and put things into proper perspective. Dreaming is a form of overnight therapy, they say.
These experiences while sleeping can actually help us work through painful emotional experiences, giving them a lot less weight the next day
Dreams as Fantasies
Men dream more about sex than women do, says research from the University of the West of England. Sure, women have their share of erotic dreams, but they’re more likely to involve things like kissing and lusting after characters—say Ryan Gosling or David Beckham—while men’s dreams are more about the activity itself.
More Nightmares for Night Owls
Night owls typically have more nightmares than their early-to-bed counterparts. Though researchers don’t know exactly why, they offer a few possible explanations. Night owls might suffer more depression and anxiety than morning people. These two mood disorders could contribute to bad dreams.
It could be that the night owls are still sleeping when the stress hormone cortisol peaks in the morning, triggering their vivid dreams or nightmares right before they wake up, when they’re in REM or dream sleep.
Dreaming to Learn
Even though we’re sleeping deeply during the REM phase, our brains are busy absorbing all the things that happened that day and turning them into long-term memories, according to sleep researchers at Harvard University, especially if it’s more complex information.
So if you’re trying to impress someone with your language proficiency, remember that getting a good night’s rest is imperative to waking up and having some handy new words ready to go.
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