Do dreams often urge you think about your past, or are you constantly bothered by the hidden meaning behind them? After waking up, we often face the mysterious dilemma of not being able to decipherour dreams, especially if it is a bad one. Interestingly, all you need is some basic knowledge to find the influences that affect our dreams.
Scientists at France’s Lyon, Neuroscience Research Centre, studied groups to figure out how well wide-brain activity dreaming relates to our waking life. Lyon’s study says people with the ability to recall dreams have high brain activity while low-recallers have less. Moreover, this pattern remains the same for when you’re awake too. Interestingly, during the times when they briefly awaken at night, high-dream-recallers often aren’t even aware that they’re awake.
Mastering dream retrieval
However, the good news is that we can all train ourselves to recall our dreams. Here’s how it works. Before going to bed, make a vow not to let yourself go to sleep after you’ve dreamt of something. You must be firm in your resolve for this t work. Once you wake up, try to remember what you dreamt about. Practise this again and again, for this is the only way to master the art.
One fact we need to be aware of is that the human brain does not store fresh memories while it’s on sleep mode. When we are done dreaming, we usually continue sleeping and hardly wake up right after. This drastically lowers the chances of retrieving the dream. High-dream-recallers awaken twice or more at night to maintain their ability to recall.
Scientists have been working hard to find clear reasons and establish many theories behind dreams. This includes practising response to threatening situations, creating wisdom and psychotherapy. Despite these efforts, the main reasoning behind dreams remain a mystery. As a result, dreams are brushed off as nothing but a creation of our minds. Carey Morewedge, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University thinks, “There is still a lot more for us to understand about the night productions of our minds.” It is clear that by valuing and analysing dreams, many aspects of our lives can be experienced differently.
Dreams are shaped by our beliefs
Michael Norton, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School surveyed general beliefs about dreams. Most of the students from 149 universities from the USA, India and South Korea, consented to the theory that our dreams tell us about the hidden meaning of our lifestyle and culture.
Researchers wanted to find out if humans should consider all dreams to be equally meaningful, or should they consider the interpretations to be biased as it is determined by their waking beliefs and desires. Morewedge stated, "People attribute meaning to dreams when it corresponds with their pre-existing beliefs and desires. This was also the case in another experiment which demonstrated that people who believe in God were likely to consider any dream in which God spoke to them to be meaningful. Agnostics, however, considered dreams in which God spoke to be more meaningful when God commanded them to take a pleasant vacation than when God commanded them to engage in self-sacrifice."
Social relationships shape dreams
In 2001, neurologist Patrick McNamara began working on a hypothesis based on the idea that social relationships can have direct impact on our dreams. After observing 300 universities, his team categorised the students on their level of attachment security. Based on their comfort level in relationships and how included or secluded they are in their daily lives, they were classified as either “secure” or “insecure.” McNamara found that students from the insecure attachment pole had more dreams every night which were reported to be much more morbid, intense, and traumatising than the other groups. Morbid dreams were boosted by isolation and poor attachment, and as a result, it created a solid foundation for trauma and other issues, that make it harder for individuals to reach out and connect with others. Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman commented that his dreams were his inspiration. Not only him, but there are plenty of creative people who find inspiration for their work from dreams.
Have you heard about lucid dreamers who use their dreams effectively to solve creative problems? Recently, researchers are working with lucid dreamers who troubleshoot using their dreams. Dreams are about perception and revolves around what happens in your surroundings.
Drugs have an effect on dreams
Certain types of anti-depressants may affect dreaming. SSRI (Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors) may decrease the ability to recall dreams as well as intensify dreaming. SSRI may lead to the presence of more positive emotions in dreams. Removal of SSRI, on the other hand, may lead to nightmares. Alcohol, too, is a reason behind alterations in our dreams as it breaks the normal, healthy sleep cycle. Studies show that consuming alcohol leads to having more negative emotional content in our dreams. Insomnia and sleep disorder can heighten dream recall and also lead to more stressful and disturbing dreams. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may cause nightmares and disturbed dreaming. PTSD mostly happens to people with past experience of trauma, including assault, disaster, war and combat.