When investigating the interpretation of dreams, it is important to examine just what role dreams play in our lives. Dream research has shown that dreams play an important role, both physically and psychologically, and a thorough understanding of how we dream and why we dream is an important basis for anyone interested in dream interpretation.
The physical side of dreaming
During dream sleep, the body goes through some important changes. When in dream sleep, the level of adrenaline release goes up, the blood pressure rises, and the hear rate goes up as well. It is important to note the results that scientists have found on brain waves and dreaming. Dream research has shown that brain activity during dream sleep is actually higher than during normal waking hours. Therefore, dreaming could be thought of in many ways as a higher state of consciousness.
Dream sleep is also known as REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. As the name implies, the eyes move rapidly beneath their closed lids during dream sleep. Dream sleep takes place in the final state of sleep and takes up between 15% and 20% of sleep time for the average person. Every person will dream between four and seven times during the average night, but the dreams most likely to be remembered in the morning are those that take place closest to waking.
Just because the dreamer does not remember the dreams, however, does not mean they did not occur. Every person dreams every night, whether they remember those dreams or not. It typically takes between 30 and 90 minutes from falling asleep to the start of dreaming. After the deepest stage of sleep is reached, the dreamer will cycle in and out of REM sleep during the rest of the night. During REM sleep, the blood pressure and heart rate both fluctuate and increase.
It is also important to know that the body is completely immobile during dream sleep. While we may toss and turn during other parts of the sleep cycle, the muscles remain completely relaxed during dream sleep. This is commonly known as "dream paralysis" or "sleep paralysis".
The psychological side of dreaming
While science still does not fully understand the function of dream sleep, we do know that dreaming is essential to our physical and psychological well being. Studies have shown that those who are deprived of dream sleep exhibit a variety of psychological symptoms. In one study, volunteers were awakened just before they could enter the REM sleep cycle, then allowed to fall asleep again. This cycle was repeated throughout the night.
Even though all the volunteers sleep the same amount of time as ususal, they exhibited an impairment in their daily activities The subjects exhibited disoriention, depression and other psychological ills. In addition, the dream deprived volunteers showed irritability and quick tempers as well. As the study continued thorugh several consectutive nights, the volunteers continued to become more and more agitated and psychologically unwell.
This study, as well as subsequent studies have shown that dreaming is an integral part of our well being. Further studies have confirmed the importance of dreaming, and the psychological effects caused by depriving sleepers of the ability to dream