The objective of this paper is to explore many articles covering the purpose of dreaming from various sources. The articles, however, may vary from researcher to researcher. As such, this paper will also detail the different theories about the usefulness of dreams. This paper will also take time to explain what a dream is, when dreams happen, and what their potential purposes may be.
To start this paper, we first must understand what a dream is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a dream is "a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep". Dreams take the things we see during our waking hours and translate them into unique, sometimes horrifying, and possibly meaningful ways. Dreams could also be representations of subconscious feelings and desires, bubbling up from deep within our psyche. However, the actual purpose of dreams remains a mystery, even to today's foremost experts on this subject. Sigmund Freud attempted to understand what dreams meant; he thought that dreams were safeguards attempt deeper and darker desires from the human mind's id.
Decades later, scientist John Allan Hobson theorized that dreams are a result of the brain attempting to interpret random electrical impulses within the brain, producing often elaborate and vivid details and plots while we sleep. Other research suggests that dreams are the brain's unique way of organizing disparate information; a kind of nightly mental reformatting. The average Joe takes a significantly less scientific approach to understanding their dreams. The most popular method is dream interpretation. (Rebecca Turner: Why Do We Dream?)
Dream interpretation can be found in many outlets, from books to Internet websites to even pseudo-psychological approaches such as psychic readings. All of these pseudo-scientific approaches utilize a similar method; picking and choosing specific elements or objects inside of the dreams and subjecting them to whatever particular dream dictionary they have on their bookshelf or dream interpretation website they may have in their bookmarks. These techniques are definitely not new. To see the basis for these techniques, you only have to look back a few thousand years.
What Dreaming Is
In order to understand dreaming, we must understand how dreaming affects the brain, the body, and how we sleep. Sleep consists of two basic states, which are REM and NREM. NREM (non-rapid eye movement) is the stage of sleep where the body actually falls to sleep, occurring in four intervals. REM sleep (rapid eye movement) is the stage at where we actually dream. Suppression of three different neurotransmitters occurs during REM sleep, as well as quickening of the heart rate and breathing, and brain activity increases to the same level or higher to when we are awake. The release of glycine from the brain stem into the motoneurons forces the body into a state of paralysis. This is the stage at which we experience the most vivid of dreams. The switch...