Why Do We Dream (and Does It Really Mean Anything)?

Why we need sleep is pretty obvious. The brain needs (and deserves) time to shut down and reset in order to function at its highest. But have you ever wondered why we dream? What role do they play in our lives?

The average person has four to six dreams a night, each lasting between five and 34 minutes. Dreams generally occur during deep sleep—in the REM phase. During the REM cycle, the chemical associated with memory and recall (norepinephrine) is at its lowest levels. That, along with the fact that our memory-supporting frontal lobes become inactive while we sleep, is why we are generally unable to remember most of our dreams in the morning. In fact, the only time many of us are actually able to recall a dream is if we are awoken from it.

Why Do We Dream?

So, what’s the point of dreams, if we can’t even remember most of them? The truth is, no one really knows for sure. But, there are a few widely-accepted theories as to the underlying purpose of dreaming.

man harvesting moons on the sea

Self-Therapy

If you’re experiencing a lot of drama or have experienced trauma in your life, your dreams may be helping you to process those stressful events in unique ways.

Dreams allow you to make emotional connections that you simply cannot make consciously and help you to work through the challenging thoughts, emotions, and events of daily life. Think of them as built-in therapy.

Yeah, the brain is pretty cool.

Training

The part of the brain, known as the amygdala, is highly active while we dream. Interestingly, it’s also the part of the brain that is associated with “flight or fight” responses. Some researchers theorize that the amygdala becomes active when we dream to help train us for dealing with potential threats, which would explain those universal chasing and falling dreams.

Think of it as a dry run for survival scenarios. There’s no real danger in the dream space, so we get to test how we would instinctively react. And for more modern-day issues, it’s a way for us to rehearse and sort out solutions to our daily problems.

true love sleeping all together in the morning young beautiful woman and two pretty dog pug

Inspiration

Creativity is one of the defining factors of being human, and dreams might play a massive role in that process.

Think about all of the famous songs that have been inspired or delivered through dreams—like Yesterday by The Beatles and Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. It’s tough to explain scientifically, but time and again, dreams have served as powerful creative inspiration for artists and intellectuals alike.

Memory Support

Perhaps the most popular theory about why we dream is that dreams allow us to store new memories and sort through old ones to reduce mental clutter.

Sleep itself has been shown in studies to improve memory retention, but could this be the result of our dreaming? Perhaps.

Regardless of why we dream, dreaming is wonderful. Paying more attention to the dreams you do remember could bring you greater insight into yourself and the world around you. So grab your dream journal and prepare for a wild ride into your brain!

77 comments

Caitlin L
Caitlin L15 hours ago

tyfs

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danii p
danii pyesterday

Thanks

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danii p
danii pyesterday

Thanks

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Leo C
Leo C4 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Melanie St. Germaine

Thank you for sharing

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Leo C
Leo C6 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Ingrid A
Ingrid A7 days ago

Thank you

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Greta L
Greta L8 days ago

thank you for posting

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Jessica C
Jessica C8 days ago

thx

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer9 days ago

hmmmmm.

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