Throughout human history, dreams have been a source of inspiration, encouragement, and guidance, but their true meaning and purpose remain a mystery. Every person dreams, and though we may not remember all of them, some dreams are full of outlandish subject matter, while others are surprisingly mundane. While it is almost certain that humans dream for a reason, that reason is still hotly debated among scientists and medical professionals. Read on to learn more about why we dream and what our dreams might mean.
The History of Dream Interpretation
All throughout history, humans have wondered about the purpose and meaning of our dreams. In ancient times, people believed that dreams were a connection between our world and the spirit world. Greek and Roman scholars thought they could predict the future, and ancient philosophers like Hippocrates and Aristotle were fascinated by the entire subject of dreams. We can date the first written dream interpretation back to around 3,000-4,000 B.C., when the ancient Sumerians recorded their dreams on tablets.
Dreams have also made many appearances in classic works of art and literature, including The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is one of the oldest surviving works of literature. In religious texts like the Bible and the Quran, there are many examples of God communicating with man through dreams. And during the first half of the 20th century, the Surrealist movement created art based on the artist's subconscious, including dream states.
The Science of Dreams
The study of dreams is called oneirology, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud came up with scientific theories about why we dream. Both believed that dreams had serious psychological importance. In the mid-19th century, REM sleep was discovered. It's thought that we dream most during this part of our sleep cycle.
Today, there are a few modern theories about why we dream. One theory, called the activation-synthesis hypothesis, states that dreams are random electrical impulses from our sleeping brains. Upon waking, we try to make sense of what we saw during our dreams. Another theory notes that dreams may be an instinctual protective measure to teach us about potential dangers and threats in real life. Dreams could simulate real-world threats, giving creatures who dreamed a biological advantage over those who didn't. Today, there is much evidence that humans aren't the only animals that dream.
However, in the past few years, new evidence about why we dream has been discovered. With new advancements in our ability to scan our brains, a link has been found between memories, emotions, and dreams, and why we only remember some dreams upon waking. This research shows that the reason we dream might have to do with processing emotions.
What Do Your Dreams Mean?
While it's still not agreed upon why we dream and what it means, you may be faced with a strange dream that just begs to be understood. Common dreams like being back in high school and forgetting your locker combination or missing an important appointment like a flight or work meeting can be a sign of stress, while dreams like being naked in public can be a sign that you're feeling vulnerable, perhaps in a new position at work or in your personal life.
Many people have tried to develop the ability to control the outcomes of their dreams, known as lucid dreaming. Those who are able to lucid dream say that almost anyone who wants to can develop the skill. Try keeping track of your dreams in a journal by your bedside, writing down anything you remember upon waking. This may help you spot common themes or motifs, so you can learn more about what your dreams may be trying to tell you.
The jury is still out when it comes to dreams, but everyone agrees that a restful night's sleep is important for your health. Slip into Dreamstate sheets for your best sleep ever.