We all have them. Some make sense, others confuse. There are those that make us feel happy and those that leave us terrified. There are even some that seem to be prophetic. Whatever your age, when you close your eyes at night, dreams will follow.
What Are Dreams?
Dreams are essentially stories and images our mind creates while we sleep. Although, they can occur anytime during sleep, the most vivid dreams, the ones we tend to remember, usually occur during deep, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a time when the brain is at its most active.
Some experts say we dream at least four to six times per night (although as many as 95 percent of all dreams are quickly forgotten not long after waking).
Why Do We Dream?
There are lots of theories about why we dream, but nobody knows for certain. Some researchers say dreams have no purpose whatsoever and are simply random, yet sometimes relatable stories that don’t reflect what is happening in our lives.
Other theories include dreams representing a way of processing memories, a method for the mind to work through difficult and complex emotions (thought to be why dreams are often more memorable during times of depression and anxiety) or a way for the brain to organise and prepare itself to face perceived dangers and threats.
Dreams and the Unconscious
Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed that dreams allow people to express unconscious wishes they find unacceptable in real life. In his famous book, The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud wrote that dreams are ‘…disguised fulfilments of repressed wishes.’
Dreams as Prophecies
Due to their often-vivid nature, there have always been those who believe that dreams offer an insight into the future. And this has been going on for much of recorded history.
In ancient Egypt, for example, people with vivid dreams were thought to be blessed with special insight, and many of their dreams have been found recorded on papyrus.
Do Dreams Come True?
Perhaps the most famous case of prophecy through dream concerns Abraham Lincoln. The dream, which was recorded in the memoirs of Lincoln’s friend and bodyguard, Colonel Ward Hill Lamon, appears to have foreseen his death.
In the dream, Lincoln saw weeping mourners gathered around a corpse, which was dressed in funeral vestments. Lincoln shouted, ‘Who is dead in the White House?’. One of the mourners replied ‘The president, he was killed by an assassin’.
Just a few days later Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
The Universality of Dreams
Whatever the truth behind the meaning of dreams, researchers have found that certain dream themes can be found across different cultures. So, that dream you had of being chased or falling is not unique. All across the world, people are having the same theme in their own dreams.