Cracking the life-long mystery

I am pretty sure many people, like me, are puzzled and interested in knowing something about this mysterious topic – dreaming. We often wake up with fragments of a dream fresh in our mind and wonder why we dreamt about that.

There is still so much we don’t yet know about the function of sleeping. Despite much scientific progress, the “why” of sleep remains a a sixty-four-thousand-dollar question we have yet to figure out. Dreaming is an ancient and fundamental aspect of sleep. Researches on animal sleep suggests that we, humans, are not the only species to dream.

According to Hobson and McCarly’s activation-synthesis hypothesis (1977), dreams are the “result of the forebrain responding to random activity initiated at the brainstem … This random activity, or noise … passes through similar sensory-relay stations as information from the environment, and is interpreted in a way that leads to the phenomenology of dreaming.”

I think this explains why dreaming appeals to a majority of peoples’ dream experiences, being somewhat erratic and haphazard. This theory points out that the bizarre nature of dreams is associated to some parts of the brain trying to piece together a story out of what is essentially random information.

Interestingly, there are what’s called dream dictionaries available to interpret and discover the meanings of your dreams. Take falling as an example. You might be falling from a skyscraper, a cliff or a helicopter or from a higher ground. This suggests loss of control or insecurity. According to DreamMoods, you might be feeling overwhelmed, perhaps in school, at work, in your daily life or in your personal relationship. You might have lost your foothold and cannot keep up with the high demands of your life.

Decoding the science behind the mechanisms of dreaming may lead to important understanding into its purpose, and to the purpose of sleep itself, whether dreaming plays a role in the consolidation of memory that occurs during sleep and whether dreams are related to the learning boost that sleep appears to provide.

Dreams are interesting, or I would say rather intriguing experiences to ponder.

Note: This is more of a fact-oriented article instead of my usual opinion-based writings. The above article would not be accomplished without the numerous books, scientific research documents and online information on this topic. Credits to Mr Beaton, my English teacher, for the inspiration and the interesting facts he told us in class on this topic.

References:

Kahn, D., Pace-Schott, E. and Hobson, A. (2002). Emotion and cognition: Feeling and character identification in dreaming. Consciousness and Cognition, 11: 34-50.

Winson, J. (1993). The biology and function of rapid eye movement sleep. Current Opinions in Neurobiology, 3: 243-8.

Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vols. IV and V. London: Hogarth Press.

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