Are dreams just drivel?
How often have you woken up from a strange dream and thought “what was that trying to tell me”?
You might head to Google and look for advice on what your night-time visions meant, where you’ll probably find that dreaming about teeth is telling you that you’re anxious and lack confidence, while a forest suggests that you’re lost. Falling supposedly means you have no self-control, and being chased signifies cowardice.
Reading this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the brain is something of a bully, sending us disturbing, cryptic messages to remind us of personality shortcomings of which we’re no doubt already aware. Bizarrely, one of the more positive things to dream about appears to be death, which many analysts say is a sign of change, fresh starts and newfound independence.
Are our subconscious minds really this unkind, though? Do they need to traumatise us with visions of passing away just to tell us that we’re on to something new?
The majority of people do believe that dreams are “portals to the unconscious”, at least in the U.S. In 2009, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that more than half of Americans are of this opinion. The research was also carried out among Indians and South Koreans, with an even greater proportion (74% and 65% respectively) believing that dreams are trying to tell us something.
Of course, Sigmund Freud is largely responsible for this. His 1900 book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ remains a go-to publication for scholars of psychology, and Freud’s work has crept into many art and literature degrees too. His idea of ‘wish fulfilment’ drew a useful comparison between visions during sleep and what’s on the mind, moving on from earlier ideas of dreams being messages from deities or a result of the soul leaving the body.
Today, however, Freud’s dream theory is often thought of as crude, contradictory and somewhat phallocentric, with fellow German psychologist Hans Eysenck being one of its fiercest critics. Indeed, research shows that the subconscious mind is not as mystical as many people think, and that dreams are more likely to be a case of your brain simply repeating some of the thoughts and experiences it had the day before. In short, the mind knows what it’s doing and perhaps we should give it a little more credit.
From personal experience, I believe dreams can also be heavily influenced by what’s going on around you while you sleep. As an example of this, I once fell asleep on the floor after a party at university (something that’s more forgiving on the body in the late teens than the early thirties) and had all sorts of peculiar dreams about cows and meat during the night. It would have been odd and unexplainable were it not for the fact that the first thing I saw when I woke up was a half-eaten burger. While your sight is lost during sleep, your other four senses remain intact. In this case, smell and perhaps taste (since it was probably me who eat half of the burger) affected my dreams.
In other cases, dreams could be affected by what you hear while asleep. At about the same age, I thought I might have a knack for predicting news and world events, often dreaming about news the night before it was announced. I wasn’t really a psychic though, just someone who often fell asleep with the TV on and took in whatever they were talking about on BBC News overnight.
Basically, this suggests that the worse you sleep, the weirder you dream. The most strange and nightmarish visions are usually the result of an overly active mind and a disturbed sleep. By sticking to a schedule, getting a sensible amount of sleep, having a quality bed, and keeping technology to a minimum in the bedroom, your mind is less likely to rebel as your body recharges.
John Murray has a keen interest in both psychology and sleep, for reasons varying between intrigue and downright laziness. He writes articles for HappyBeds.co.uk, one of the fastest growing online retailers of beds and mattresses.
-- Important: The Sleep Blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Instead, this website provides general information for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider if you have questions or concerns regarding any medical condition or treatment.
25 thoughts on “What Do Your Dreams Mean? Do Dreams Matter?”
There’s new technology out that is supposed to promote lucid dreaming. They are sleep masks that give off pulses of certain types of light. Lots are starting to come to market.
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People who have become lucid dreamers offer this advice to those who may be interested in exploring the possibilities of lucid dreaming. Stay confident. You do have the ability to summon up whatever you dream about, from dragons to teleportation. Yes, you can really fly like the proverbial eagle. You will find that there is absolutely nothing that isn’t possible when you’re inside a lucid dream.
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Ok so I’m hoping someone can tell me what this means. It’s kind of a day dream/night dream but here goes. So I dreamt that there where three teams and they were going to all fight each other. My team made the first move on broomsticks, the Harry Potter team(I had recently been watching it)But every time someone made a move against our team or we made a move against theirs I would get a terrible pain in my head, and it came over and over again(I had a pain in my head in real life) and it really hurt. Once everyone stopped hitting each other I was fine and my team won, resulting in me throwing up and after that my pain just went away. Thanks xx
I’ve had a lot of aha moments during sleep when I wake up and think to myself, why did that pop into my head? Then after some thought realize that there’s something that must be bothering me so I have to deal with it.
I agree. The brain is a complicated and wonderful thing, working all the time. If we ignore an issue that is bothering us, it doesn’t just go away. We have to deal with it. Wonderful thing, our brain.
I have sleeping problems , can not get proper sleep so i can enjoy of dream , if you have solution of this problems , please helps me. Thank Your
I thought these articles were very interesting. They give me a different side of the importance of sleep. Having these different examples makes it easier to understand the importance of sleep.
This has long been a fascinating subject to me. I have begun to journal my dreams and have studied dream interpretation as well. Much I believe is a positive re-grouping of the mind to help solve knotty problems, when during the day we are so intellectually focused that we may miss the obvious. Your article is very interesting.
I think most of problem with dreaming comes with a bad posture or pillow, If you are not comfortable in your sleep I bet you that in place you’ll find yourself in front of back problems…
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Nice dreams for you all !
Great information! I agree that dreams matter. Personally, when I think of my goals before sleeping, sometimes they come up during my sleep. So perhaps, it’s a psychological thing as when I wake up, I’d be more motivated to do things that lead to my goal.
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That’s really interesting that the worse you sleep, the weirder you dream. I never knew that. I quit smoking a year ago and was on medication to help with it. I had the CRAZIEST dreams almost every night. I’d love to learn more about why that actually happens.
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Very good article John. The thing with dreaming about what you are hearing is real – I experienced that too many times in my life, especially when you fall asleep with TV on it can affect what you dream about. My point of view on dreams as general is that they are partly what we are thinking about or what we want to achieve, mixed with dreams that we don’t know where they did come from – but on this one I would assume that our subconscious mind was either thinking about something or wants to give us a hint about some situations. I hope that one day we will know a lot more about dreams we have while sleeping, we spend so much time as humans sleeping at yet nobody has really gone into this to check it from scientific point of view and explain what they might be (if I’m wrong, send me some links for more reading about this).
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Dreams are really interesting. They are mysterious. I have learnt about many thing about dream.
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A lot of times I am left confused by my dreams. But yes, I do believe that the environment around us affect our dreams. I find this kind of stuff so fascinating. Great read.