Dreams occur during the REM sleep stage of your sleep cycle, and they can be vivid and detailed. They are also thought to help with memory formation, integration, problem-solving and integrating ideas both about ourselves and the world.
Dreaming is not an automatic process, and a lot can change during dreams — for instance, your body’s electrical activity can alter. The most memorable and vivid dreams are those that happen during REM sleep, but they can also occur during other stages of your sleep expert on dreams cycle.
Unlike your waking life, dreams don’t have any defined meaning. Instead, they are interpreted by the brain during the dream, says sleep expert Matthew Walker of the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkeley. He says that analyzing your dreams isn’t as complicated as it sounds, but it does require some effort and a little bit of patience.
You can’t remember every single dream you have, but if you’ve had an especially bad one, it might help to write it down or repeat it in your mind the next time you’re waking up. But remembering a dream isn’t always easy, and it may not happen at all for some people.
Some research suggests that you have fewer memories while you’re asleep than you do when you’re awake, and this might be because your neurotransmitters forming memory are less active during dreaming. Regardless, dream forgetfulness is relatively common and can be associated with things like age or stress levels.
Why We Dream
There are several theories about why we dream, but most experts agree that we do it for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they help us process experiences and emotions from the day before, Loewenberg says. They can be a source of information, and they can even tell you things about your own personality that you might not otherwise know.
They can also be a form of therapy, according to Kuras. If you’re struggling with a difficult relationship or an emotional issue, for example, you may have a nightmare that you can’t shake. And that’s a good thing, Kuras says, because it helps you deal with whatever issues are underlying the nightmare.
Why We Dream
Ultimately, there isn’t a clear answer to the question of why we dream, but it does appear that we do so in an effort to connect with our deeper selves. In other words, dreaming is a way for your brain to express itself through symbols and metaphors that it might not be able to do while you’re awake.