The Power of Sleep and Dreams

In sleep, dreams have a powerful effect on processing emotional and significant memories. Dreams are a realistic recreation of awakening social life, with a mixture of characters, motivations, scenarios, and positive and negative emotions.

Research shows that dreaming is not just a byproduct of sleep, but assists its own important functions in our well-being. Very often, many of us feel dreams have a special meaning or message behind them however science has given a more doubtful perspective on this claim.  Dreams are one of the most fascinating and puzzling aspects of sleep.

Sigmund Freud helped us to understand the importance of dreams in the late 19th century, subsequent research has worked to unearth both the neuroscience and psychology of dreams. Although there are scientific knowledge and explanation about dreams, there is still debate going on and much is unknown about both sleep and dreams. One of these fundamental questions is do we need to dream at all?

While everyone dreams, the content of those dreams and their effect on sleep can vary from person to person. However, similar factors run through most dreams; they are involuntary, the content of the dream may be illogical or even confusing, others are also present in it, it provokes strong emotions, etc. Although these features are not universal, they are found at least to some extent in most dreams.


Why We See Dreams

We dream for several reasons. There’s been a lot of debates among sleep experts about why we dream, there are several theories about why we dream. One of them is building memory. Dreaming has been connected with the consolidation of memory, which suggests that dreaming may serve an important cognitive function of strengthening memory and informational recall. A moment of dreaming could be the brain’s way of ‘straightening up’, clearing away partial, erroneous, or unnecessary information. Dreams are also the brain’s method of managing emotions by the power of turning feelings into imaginary and scenario components.

Experts in the fields of neuroscience and psychology still continue to conduct research to discover what really happens in the brain during sleep, but even with ongoing research and some results derived, it may be impossible to prove any theory for why we dream conclusively.

On average, most people dream for around two-three hours per night. Dreaming can happen at any stage of sleep, the intense dreaming period occurs during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage. During this sleep stage, brain activity rises up considerably compared to the non-REM stages. Dreams at this stage are typically more vivid, fantastic, and/or weird as they may involve different elements of real life. REM sleep is not distributed evenly through the night. Most REM sleeping happens during the second half of a normal sleep period, which means that dreaming tends to be intense in the hours before waking up.


Why Sleeping Is Vitally Important

We all take sleep for granted until we have problems with it and then we quickly remember how desirable and necessary sleep is. It is essential to the maintenance of physical and psychological health. One would ask how much sleep do we need? This depends on various factors including physical condition, age, mental condition, etc. It really depends entirely on an individual.

For example, a pregnant woman will need more sleep than a healthy woman of the same age, an adult with a cold will need more sleep than one who is well, and an individual with depression may require more sleep than a non-depressed person.

There is no strict sleep number, however, there are general rules for how much sleep certain age groups need. For instance, children need more sleep per day in order to develop and function properly: up to 18 hours for newborn babies.

Sleep deprivation can have an extreme effect on an individual. Research has uncovered a number of ways in which a lack of sleep affects our well-being. It negatively affects brain chemistry, growth, healing, attention, memory, and the ability to operate machinery, among other things. It can also cause both physical and mental illnesses, such as diabetes, depression, etc., and in extreme cases, it can cause hallucinations.

Sleep deprivation boils downs to heavily affecting the brain as well, especially the growth and cognitive function studies performed on sleep-deprived subjects show that regions of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, an area that supports mental faculties such as working memory and logical reasoning, displayed more activity in sleepier subjects.

The results implied that sleepier subjects had to work harder and better than well-rested subjects to accomplish the same task.

In 2007 a study at Harvard Medical School and the University of California at Berkeley revealed, using MRI scans, that sleep deprivation causes the brain to become unable of putting an emotional event into the proper perspective and incapable of making a controlled, suitable response to the event.

The list of negative effects is endless. This simply makes us understand that the power of sleep and dream in individual life is highly important. One can’t do away with these two vital and natural elements of life. So the next time you will lack sleep, take a good nap, and enjoy every bit of it.


Illustration: kovalto1/Shutterstock


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