Did you ever wonder “why do we dream?” Find out the reason behind this and learn how to use dreaming to your advantage!
Why Do We Dream?
What Is Dreaming?
It sounds elusive and even mystifying when somebody tells us to “follow our dreams,” but what does that really mean?
Often used in casual and motivating conversations, the notion of following our dreams can actually hold the key to understanding our waking lives a little better and even the symbolism behind the images we see at night.
Let’s grab a journal, some melatonin, and find out why following our dreams can be a huge health and longevity upgrade.
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Why Do We Dream When We Sleep?
Despite scientific research, there is no conclusive evidence as to why we dream. What we do know is dreaming serves a primary, biological purpose.
Having a good night’s sleep with the subconscious mind coming up with dream content helps the body in the following ways:
- It aids in the consolidation of learning and short-term to long-term memory storage. Memory consolidation helps your mind function better and get rid of brain fog.
- It reflects the brain responding to biochemical changes as well as electrical impulses that happen while we’re asleep.
- It’s a different form of consciousness that integrates past, present, and future in processing information from the first two and preparing for the third.
Now we know the technical reasons as to why our bodies go into sleep mode, let’s explore the more mysterious components of the dreaming process.
When Dreams Become Reality
There are countless examples of great leaders in the field of art and science who have made important advancements in society based upon the dreams they had at night.
For example, Paul McCartney famously credited the song Yesterday to a dream, the periodic table was brought to chemist Dmitri Mendeleev through a dream, and Jack Kerouac wrote an entire book based upon his dreams.
So, how did they do that? The simplest way to explain this phenomenon is lucid dreaming: the state in which we realize we are dreaming, while we are dreaming.
Technically, lucid dreams are real dreams occurring in bursts of Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM.) Understanding the different stages of brainwave awareness can help us understand our current state of consciousness.
For instance, when we were infants and young children (0-7), we were almost entirely functioning in the alpha and theta brainwave state — that’s the same state people are in when they meditate!
Living in such a high-tech age has distracted us in many ways from our full state of consciousness, the vivid ones that shaped our imaginations as children. How then do we upgrade our modern adult lives and start living in technicolor?
Follow Your Dreams… Literally
By exercising the altered state of our lucid dreams, we can add real value to our waking lives, draw inspiration, and even solve problems. The good news is it’s surprisingly easy to experience the results of a heightened awareness brought to us by our dream states.
Here are a few quick tips to engage with your dreams at night and bring that awareness into your waking reality:
1. Jog Your Memory with Lucid Dreaming to Make Better Decisions
The first step to getting into a lucid dream state is to start paying attention to the decisions you make while you are awake. Consciously state, “I want to remember…” and fill in the blank before you go to bed. Many times, we hear the phrase, “just sleep on it” when we have an important decision we are wrestling with.
Put this theory to the test and next time you have a dilemma you want to solve, make a note of it before you turn the lights off. You may just get in a lucid dream of the situation you are currently grappling with. Lucid dreaming may jog your memories and help you come up with a decision when you wake up.
Pro-tip: Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. We dream every 90 minutes and each dream session gets longer than the first one. The better the sleep, the better the quality of the dreams, too.
Sleep deprivation or too little sleep not only affects a person’s sleep stage, but it also causes other health issues. Depression and anxiety are also known to be accompanied by nightmares. People who suffer from it often have insomnia or refuse to sleep all together.
Stressful events and post-traumatic stress can also cause people to lose sleep.
2. Seek Out the Right Supplements to Boost Beta Waves
One of the best ways to reconfigure your dream state is to investigate supplements that boost beta waves. The key is to find out what works best for your unique body.
Here are a few ideas to sleep on:
- L-theanine – It is an amino acid commonly found in green tea that helps you relax and reduces stress while amplifying your beta wave state.
- 5 HTP – This is a naturally produced chemical that affects serotonin levels in the body. Having balanced serotonin levels means better moods and a boost in melatonin production as well.
- Vitamin B6 – (aka pyridoxine) increases dream vividness or the ability to recall dreams!
What is serotonin? This is a chemical that nerve cells produce to help stabilize one’s mood. It helps the body relax to aid with the digestive process, eating, and sleeping and can also help with depression and anxiety.
On the other hand, certain medications or physical conditions may disturb REM sleep. They may even create nightmares.
Meanwhile, some evidence suggests people taking Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (SSRI) may experience intense and even positive dreams. Then again, reliance on this drug may cause nightmares should the body stop taking it.
Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors Definition: Doctors prescribe an SSRI to patients suffering from depression and anxiety.
Pro-tip: When researching supplements, always do your homework and seek out socially conscious businesses that make their products with the people and planet in mind.
3. Schedule Reality Checks to Increase the Rate of Lucid Dreams
Lastly, a great way to practice mindfulness and cultivate lucid dreams is to take daytime reality checks.
It’s important to ask yourself the question, “Am I dreaming right now?” That way, when you are asleep, you will be able to remember dreams and increase the rate of lucid ones.
Why do we dream what we dream? There are a lot of studies going on about dream interpretation, lucid dreams, and their relation to mental health. Knowing the meaning of your dreams and how they relate to reality may help improve your mindfulness and decision making.
Do you have other questions about the connection between sleep and dreams? Let us know your questions in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted on March 14, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.