What do dreams mean?
Well, every dream has a different meaning because every person is different. However, each individual dream falls into a broader category of dreams that can be broken down to better understand its meaning. We can examine these categories to inspect how individual dreams may affect the way we sleep and the quality of our sleep.
Types Of Dreams
Dreaming is an elusive subject with many layers involved in interpreting the meaning of specific dreams. However, there are a few distinct types of dreams that everyone has experienced at least once.
A lucid dream occurs when the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming.
What do lucid dreams mean?
In regular dreams, your actions are involuntary, and you watch the story play out as if in a movie. In lucid dreams, on the other hand, you can control what happens in a similar fashion to playing a video game.
While this phenomenon comes naturally to 20 - 30 percent of the population, there is a large chunk of people who have never experienced lucid dreaming. It’s possible but difficult to train yourself to lucid dream if you never have before.
Many people report having the same dream (or a similar version of it) over and over again. This is called a recurring dream.
What do recurring dreams mean?
Between 60 and 75 percent of adults experience recurring dreams. Recurring dreams can mean that there is an unresolved conflict in your waking life that you have not acknowledged which is begging for your attention. You keep pushing it out of your head while awake, and it reappears while you’re asleep. These dreams may occur during times of stress or drastic change in one’s life.
Common recurring dreams include failing an exam, being late, or losing teeth. Even if your recurring dream disappears for a long time, it can reappear when a new, similar stressor re-enters your life.
If your recurring dream is disturbing and has you tossing and turning, it can negatively affect your sleep. Otherwise, recurring dreams shouldn’t have a drastic impact on the state of your sleep.
Nightmares are vivid, scary, seemingly realistic dreams that prey off your fears. They usually occur during REM sleep and can jolt you awake in a cold sweat, with your heart pounding. Because nightmares typically occur during REM sleep, prime time for these scary dreams is the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning.
Several factors can trigger nightmares, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Nightmares can also be a side effect of certain sleep disorders.
Even late night snacks can contribute to the presence of nightmares. This is because eating food increases your metabolism and therefore increases your brain activity before bed. An overactive imagination isn’t always the best thing before sleeping.
While around 50% of adults suffer from occasional nightmares, they are more common for children.
Fever dreams are similar to nightmares, but they occur when you are ill. High temperatures affect the way your brain functions and can produce vivid nightmares as your body tries to sweat out the virus. Temperature control is already naturally poor during REM sleep, which is when dreams and nightmares occur—the perfect storm.
What Do Dreams Mean?
So, what do dreams mean? This is a loaded question. Some people believe that dreams don’t mean anything at all. They are merely electrical impulses in our brain that pull random thoughts and images from our memory, which we then interpret as stories.
However, there are some dreams that have generally accepted meanings. For example, dreams of being chased are very common. This is thought to represent the act of metaphorically running from something in your waking life.
Another example is dreams of falling. If you’re falling fast from a height, this can represent the presence of anxiety, fear, or distrust in your waking life. If you’re falling softly, this can represent being at peace or the act of letting go in your waking life.
Dreams of houses or dreams taking place inside a house are more ambiguous. Houses have been interpreted by psychologists as representing different levels of the dreamer’s mind. The basement may be symbolic of neglect or hidden emotions, while the bedroom may relate to more personal thoughts or feelings.
There is no one right answer to what dreams mean because even the same dream could ultimately have different meanings for different people.
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