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The Science behind Dreams

You may feel strange after listening to the fact that, dreams are responsible to improve our moods. The studies have proven that both adequate sleep and dreams are important for human body.

SNS | Shimla | Updated :

Dreams are usual experiences that could be further classified into scary, funny, interesting, factual and strange kinds. Based on different research studies researchers have tried to study human brains, to find out the reasons behind having strange dreams. Dreams have strange categories and strange properties. Combination of ideas in dreams helps us to become more creative, if our day to day activities are being repeated in our dreams, it means our dreams are strengthening our memories. You may feel strange after listening to the fact that, dreams are responsible to improve our moods. The studies have proven that both adequate sleep and dreams are important for human body.

Let us thoroughly answer all our questions related to what, why and how do these dreams occur; with the help of a few research tools (ones which are generally used to investigate brain).

We do not have a particular definition for a dream, whereas, we can address dreams as the sudden thoughts that come to our subconscious minds during sleep. The night dreams are not as similar to that of daydreams. Dreams are most probably visual. Smell and taste especially and sound as well, are rare in dreams. Dreams might include strange, happy, boring, emotional and weird set of events.

To analyze the reality of dreams, scientists need a measure of dreaming. Most studies use dream reports for analysis. Dreams are more likely to be recalled when a person is woken up from REM sleep. REM sleep is a kind of sleep that is named for the Rapid Eye Movements which is supposed to be measured during a selected stage of sleep. We do not dream as much in non-REM sleep, the sleep stages that make up the rest of the night, and dream reports from non-REM sleep are often less strange.

Statistics and occurrence of dreams varies from person to person. If a person has been woken up by someone or by an alarm clock, the person is most likely to recall his dream or remember what the dreams were all about. Whereas, if a person wakes up after completing the sleep he tends to forget all the dreams, probably because; the person will be transitioned through a few sleep stages that would possibly lead to the loss of dream memory. Dreams recall capacity alters with time as well. It is believed that older people are less likely to recall their dreams, since older people have weak memories.

A brain area known as the Medial Prefrontal Cortex is also related to recalling dreams. If this area of brain is damaged, the person is still able to recall few dreams, which may mean the person dreams less (or not at all). It also depends upon the way, brain cells are tightly packed in the medial prefrontal cortex, which can vary from person to person, which may also cause some healthy people to dream more or less than other healthy people.

  • It is believed that dreams also support memories

Memories move from a temporary storage in the hippocampus, (a brain structure that is very important for short-term memory), to permanent storage in other parts of the brain. This makes the memories easier to be recalled later. Memories improve with sleep because the memories are replayed during sleep. If you want to learn all the dialogues of your favorite movie, you might re-watch that similar scene over and over again. The brain works the same way: neurons or brain cells that are active with learning get active all over again and replay the learned material during sleep. This helps to store the memory more permanently.

  • Dreams are also believed to improve creativity and problem solving

A schoolgirl reciting a story of an airplane with intense and interesting images, she saw in her dream; inspires her to draw it on her school notebook for real. This is how our dreams are supposed to make us more creative and dreams are even said and believed to increase our problem solving abilities. Mary Shelley, the author of the book Frankenstein, got the idea for her book from a dream. Even scientists get ideas from dreams.

  • Dreams regulate moods and emotions

A study shows that most dreams are strange, scary and weird; though, there are dreams that are usually emotional. We tend to simply remember emotional things better than non-emotional things. For example, during the time when we are awake, the moment or the day when we get a puppy home, is more memorable than a routine school day. So, dreams about emotional events might be remembered more easily as compared to that of boring, non-emotional dreams.

Therefore, there are different methods on the basis of which scientists’ measure dreams—this varies from asking questions to using MRI. These studies prove that activity in the brain while we sleep gives us the interesting dreams we may or may not be able to recall when we wake up. These dreams help us remember things, be more creative, and process our emotions.

(Reference: Frontiers for Young Minds, with some original research inputs from Author Rebecca M.C. Spencer)