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Dreams are a fascinating and complex phenomenon that has attracted the attention of scientists, artists and philosophers for centuries. But what exactly are dreams, why do we dream and what does science say about it?

Dreams are a sequence of images, emotions and thoughts that make up the mental experience of a sleeping person. They can be very realistic or surreal and range from pleasant to scary. Although dreams are very individual and can vary from person to person, there are certain recurring topics and symbols that appear in many dreams.

What do we dream?

We usually dream of normal events that often have something to do with fear and misfortune.

  • Day dreams: known details of everyday life
  • Rem dreams: lively, emotionally bizarre
  • Dreams with negative events or emotions: 8 in 10 dreams
  • Dreams with sexual fantasies: 1 in 10 in young men, 1 in 30 in young women
  • Dreams that contain the experiences of the previous day: most often

Why do we dream? Various theories and critical considerations:

The question of why we dream has been concerned with humanity for thousands of years. Early theories stated that dreams of gods or ghosts were, while others believed that dreams reflect the subconscious or sort and process the brain during sleep. Modern science has refuted many of these theories, but there is still no final answer to the question of why we dream.

  • Freud's “wish fulfillment”:Dreams represent a "psychological safety valve" - ​​they express unacceptable feelings; Dreams contain manifests (recalled) content and a deeper layer of latent content (a hidden meaning). Emotions play a major role in our lives and dreams can help us process and regulate negative feelings. Through dreams we can deal with our fears, worries and trauma and experience them in a safe and controlled way.But there is no scientific support for this; Dreams can be interpreted very differently.
  • Information processing:Dreams help us to organize the events of the day and to consolidate our memories. During the day we take up countless impressions that have to process and save our brain. In sleep, these impressions are then sorted and processed, which can help to improve our memory and our ability to learn. But why do we sometimes dream of things that we have not experienced and over past events?
  • Physiological function:The regular stimulation of the brain by REM Sleep can contribute to the development and maintenance of the nerve pathways. However, this does not explain why we experience meaningful dreams.
  • Activation synthesis:REM sleep triggers neuronal activity, which causes random visual memories that interweave our sleeping brain. During the REM sleep in which most dreams appear, brain activity is very high, and there is signs that the brain is particularly plastic during this phase and can connect new connections between the neurons.The brain of the individual spins the stories, which still tell us something about the dreaming.
  • Cognitive development:The dream content reflects the dreamer's cognitive level of development - his knowledge and understanding. Dreams simulate our life, including the worst scenarios.This approach does not propose any adaptive function of dreams. 

Although we still do not know everything about dreams, scientists have already made many interesting discoveries and deepened our understanding of how our brain works and how we process our experiences and emotions. One thing is certain: dreams are a fascinating and important part of our life, which continues to hold a lot of secrets that we still have to discover.

Written by Mara Schär

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