The Mystery Behind Dreaming Essay

1178 words - 5 pages

Whether they remember them or not, all humans dream for at least two hours a night. Most dreams, no matter what they are about, occur in the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the fifth stage of sleep. During REM sleep, breathing becomes more irregular and quicker. The eyes jerk rapidly in all directions, limbs become paralyzed, heart rate increases, and blood pressure rises (NINDS, par. 7). A team of French researchers suggests that dreams are generated by the brainstem, the part of the brain that connects it to the spinal cord and helps regulate sleep. These researchers tested patients with auto-activation deficit—mental emptiness, or the inability to form a thought on their own. Four of the 13 patients reported dreams. However, such dreams were uneventful, portraying events such as walking or shaving (Healy, par. 6 and Ferro, par. 2-4). Though dreaming has existed for millions of years, scientists have not been able to pinpoint the exact purpose of a dream. Why do people dream? There are many different theories as to why dreams occur, including its therapeutic role, sharpening and organization of the brain, though there are other minor theories.
One commonly noted theory is the therapeutic role of dreams. Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist at UC Berkeley, conducted an experiment with 34 healthy, young volunteers. All of them viewed images ranging from everyday objects to violence and gore. One group viewed the photos in the morning and again in the evening, without sleeping in between. The second group saw the pictures, had a full night of sleep, and then saw them the next morning. The second group reported to have had a less emotional and milder reaction to these photos after sleeping (Dell’Amore, par. 8-11). Ernest Hartmann, a professor of psychiatry, suggests that dreams occur to make loose connections with emotions and memories. People who have been through a traumatic experience may dream about that experience, then have another dream symbolizing that experience. Gradually, as the dreams recur, the brain makes the connection, or “weave in” the dreams with the experience. Statistics and evidence has shown that intense dreams become even more intense and more frequent after trauma (Hartmann, par. 3-4). These experiments illustrate the tie between dreams, REM sleep, and a person’s emotions. The Australian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was a notable supporter of the ties between our emotions and the subconscious.
There is, of course the role of dreams in sharpening and organizing the brain. Dreams, along with being therapeutic, can act as filters. Every day, people gain new information—whether it be the color of someone’s shirt or an important math lesson. Dreams organize memories memories into what is useful and what is meaningless (Turner, Par. 25-27). Humans do this subconsciously, and through a process similar to watching television—all in their head. With so much information running through the brain, it would be nearly impossible...

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