Dreams Part 1: Understanding Dreams and Dreaming.

Every night people dream.  They may or may not remember the dreams.  In a normal night sleep, people have four to five 90 minute cycles.  With each cycle there is a period of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.  During this stage of sleep people are having vivid dreams.  Their eyes can be seen going rapidly back and forth under the eyelids.  If someone wakes them up they will report a vivid dream.  This has been proven in sleep labs.  Over the night the length of the REM dreaming gets longer in each cycle, with the longest one occurring just before we wake up in the morning.

REM sleep/dreaming is essential to our physical and mental well-being.  If for some reason we are unable to or are prevented from REM dreaming, we become emotionally and physically ill.  If a fisherman goes out alone to fish for 48 hours and must stay awake to man his boat, he will have more periods of REM sleep than usual when he returns.

Very simply stated, one part of the brain goes to sleep while another part of the brain goes to work processing our daily life in dreams.  When awake the left-brain is focusing on doing life, and all the while the right-brain is picking up information through all of the senses (hearing, sight, taste, smell, touch and others).  During dreaming the right-brain synthesizes the tremendous amount of information it takes in, with the information and factual data from the left-brain.

What is the function of dreaming?

Dreaming helps people sort things out (whether they remember their dreams or not).  It helps people make sense of their experiences.

It is common for people to wake up in the morning, without remembering their dreams, with a decision made or problem solved.   People often say when asked to make a decision, “Let me sleep on it, and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”

The dreaming brain is highly creative because it lets go of logic.  Many new ideas, concepts, inventions, changes, art, and breakthroughs come from dreams.

Sarah McLaughlin was preparing to go into the studio to record an album.  The morning she was to do the recording, she woke up with a song in her mind,  Fly Like a Bird.  She recorded the new song along with the others she was doing that day.

Recurring dreams are significant.  They can be positive or negative.

Many athletes recall from an early age, dreams of winning an Olympic medal, standing on the podium and hearing their national anthem.  When people want something, they work hard in the daytime to perform the skills and they dream about it at night.  Their dreams are likely to come true because through their dreams they figure out how to achieve their goal.

When people are afraid they frequently dream about whatever it is that they fear – a person, an experience, an event.  Recurring nightmares or bad dreams indicate that a person has an ongoing problem in his life, which he is unable to solve.

Example:  Cindy, an adult, told a recurring nightmare she had for most of her childhood.  She was one of five children. Both her parents were verbally and emotionally abusive.  They were also physically abusive, grabbing anything at hand to hit the children with or throw at them.  In the recurring nightmare, they were chasing her.  She found, if she concentrated hard enough she could float up into the air and be out of their reach, although she could feel them grabbing at her feet.  Some nights she couldn’t get high enough and they caught her.  The nightmare stopped when she moved out of the home.

Through the next series of posts, I’m going to teach you about dreams and dreaming so you can use the knowledge to help you with your life.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea Mackay

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