Though contraverscial, scientists believe that dreams reflect the unconscious to a degree, as well as have an essential biological purpose. Studies have shown that dreams aid in memory storage, help cope with emotion, and reveal suppressed thoughts. People tend to regard dreaming as an optional nighttime activity that has little significance. Dreaming is believed to be a state of sleep as important as sleeping itself. When deprived of dreaming alone, people become can anxious and panicky. It is a myth that some people do not dream; every human dreams at various intervals during sleep (Colt). Dreams primarily occur during REM sleep, where there is rapid eye movement under the eyelids (Vera-Portocarrero). Humans dream an average of two hours a day, creating a total of five years of dreaming in a lifetime (Colt).
During those five years, there is sufficient evidence that dreams are helping to prevent memory decay. If people were to study directly before sleeping, they may be able to recall the material perfectly upon awakening. This may be why people sleep with material under their pillows. No, the information does not absorb through the brain magically books and study, but rather the memory processing is facilitated because of studying at a close proximity to sleep. The reasoning behind this is that when people sleep, there are no outside interferences interfering with the memory storage. Additionally to preserving memory, dreams have been suggested to build the memory and make it more permanent. When someone is sleeping, his or her dreams are actively storing and recalling information. People’s dreams can work on a problem days after the initial memory of it (Colt).
Another theory discusses that dreams act as an emotional reset. When people are stressed or combating personal issues, dreams tend to focus on these overnight. Dreams can pose different types of thinking so that people can cope with their personal issues in a new light. When people wake up the next morning, they may feel more confident to go through another day. People’s change in mood from when the go to sleep and awaken may be directly associated with dreams (Colt).
Sigmund Freud, in his Interpretation of Dreams (1900), said that dreams were the “royal road to the unconscious.” Freud believed that people could trace their dreams to reveal deep memories and feelings. If people repressed their thoughts, then they would come out unexpectedly in dreams. Dr. Daniel M. Wegner of Harvard University conducted a study to find a link between suppression of thoughts and dreaming. 1/3 of the subjects who repressed a certain thought saw it occur in their dream, while only 1/4 of the subjects who focused on a particular thought, noticed its appearance in their dreams. However, this evidence is not significant enough to prove Freud’s belief that dreams reflect the unconscious (Suppressed). Scientists are split as to whether dreams have meaning (Colt).
Though there is no scientifically accurate method to interpret d reams, scientists have considered REM sleep (where the majority of dreams occur) to have a vital biological role. To test the importance of REM sleep, subjects were allowed to sleep normally until they began to enter REM sleep. At the first sign of movement under the eyelids, researchers would awaken the sleeping subjects. Therefore, the subjects became essentially deprived of dreaming. After several days without REM sleep, the subjects had increasing anxiety, panic, and even hallucinations. When allowed to dream again, the subjects stayed in REM sleep for a much longer period of time, as though trying to make up for the lost dreaming time. The results of this study lead researchers to believe that dreams are biologically essential.
The field of dream stu dy is not concrete enough to scientifically analyze and draw definite conclusions from. What has been discovered is contraversial and will remain so until it has been scientifically proven. Psychologists struggle to perform experiments on humans, who are much too complex for controlled experiments. Essentially, to isolate all the varibles in a human experiment would require that every subject be an identical twin raised in precisely the same environment. Scientists speculate that dreams have a definite purpose, but that purpose has yet to be confirmed.
Colt, George Howe. “The power of dreams.” Life 18.n11 (Sept 1995): 36(13). General OneFile . Gale. 5 Dec. 2007.
Secrets of the Inner Mind . Richmond: Time-Life Books, 1993.
“Suppressed thoughts rebound in dreams.” Science News . 165.14 (April 3, 2004): 221(1). General OneFile . Gale. 5 Dec. 2007.
http://find.galegroup.com/ ips/start.do?p rodId=IPS>.
Vera-Portocarrero, Louis. Brain Facts. New York: Chelsea, 2007.