Everyone dreams! We just don't all remember it in the morning. We even dream about 2 hours a night. Why is that? Well, to understand, it's important to know how we sleep in the first place. The next step is to explain dreams.


We sleep in 5 different phases. In the first phase we wake up quite easily. We don't even have the feeling of having slept, we are in the slumbering phase. During the next phases we fall asleep deeper and deeper. Our heartbeat drops and we breathe more and more calmly. Until we reach the 3rd and 4th sleep phase, which is mainly characterized by deep sleep. Our muscles are completely relaxed and we no longer wake up from the slightest noise. The 5th phase is REM sleep. We sleep less deeply, our brains are very active and both our heart rate and blood pressure increase. During REM sleep we make very fast eye movements. Hence the name of this phase: Rapid Eye Movements. It is in this phase that we start dreaming the most. Our muscles are still relaxed, otherwise we would really start executing our dreams. We go through this sleep/wake cycle about four times a night. 


Dream interpreters try to discover the deeper meaning of your dreams and to translate these into a clear message. However, it is not enough just to study the dream itself. The subject of a dream does not have the same meaning for everyone. For example, a black cat in Belgium could cause bad luck, while in England it causes happiness. A dog can stand for a faithful friend. But what if you were bitten as a child? Explaining and interpreting dreams depends on the culture in which you live. But also on your personal past.


Explaining dreams is something Sigmund Freud (1900) attached great importance to; he viewed dreams as an expression of our deepest desires. These desires were mainly of a primitive and sexual nature. He saw our dreams as desires that we cannot express during the day because of social and ethical values and norms. At night we can dream about the most bizarre things but in the morning we prefer to forget them as soon as possible. This in order to start the day as innocently as possible. Freud concluded that if we succeed in explaining a person's dreams, we are able to have a glimpse into that person's soul.


Later scientists tried to prove the existence of dreams according to the following theory. It would be unhealthy for our brains to be idle all night. That's why the body activates our brains at regular intervals. This brain activity creates images that we experience as dreams. According to this theory, dreams in themselves have no further meaning or usefulness. From that point of view, explaining dreams is not a useful activity.


In general, scientists today assume that dreams are mainly there to process the experiences and impressions of the past day. During the night, all recorded information is sorted, stored or erased. During the night we continue to learn as it were. The more new information comes to us, the more we start dreaming. That is why newborn babies almost only have a REM sleep. They have much more new experiences to process than adults.


While dreaming, we don't ask ourselves anything else. We don't stop to consider whether a certain event is actually possible. We just dream away. During dreaming there is a complete lack of logic and control. In this respect, dreaming can be compared to a huge brainstorming session in which "thinking outside the box" is central. Because of this we sometimes get up in the morning with the wildest ideas. Or even better, during a dream we came to a solution to a problem we couldn't get out of during the day. For example, Mendeliev claimed to have solved his problems concerning the periodic table of elements in a dream. "I saw in that dream a table in which all the elements fell into place. When I woke up, I wrote it on a piece of paper", Mendeliev said.


Yet it sometimes happens that while dreaming, we suddenly realise that we are dreaming. In this case we refer to a lucid dream. With some practice you can even influence and steer such a dream. For example, during a normal dream you would always run away from the danger. During a lucid dream you can turn around and face the danger. For many people such a dream gives a boost of self-confidence and in some cases even a "click" to apply it in real life.

Unfortunately, we forget very quickly. Research by J. Allan Hobson, professor at the Havard Medical School, shows that up to 95% of our dreams are forgotten when we wake up in the morning. This is because the majority of our dreams are unique, vague and sometimes completely incomprehensible. And as with studying, we have to repeat to remember. However, there are a few tips that will allow you to remember your dreams for longer. The most important one is to take your time in the morning. Don't get up immediately, stay in your sleeping position for a while and try to remember as much as possible. It is best to write these memories down in a notebook next to your bed. This way you can keep a dream diary. Definitely a fun experience.

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