The Surprising Health Benefits of Dreaming
Some believe that your dreams can tell you a lot about an individual or his or her aspirations, whereas others have totally random congregations of thoughts and images that mean little to nothing. Dreaming is a perplexing activity within our brains that has been studied throughout time, with no definitive answer as to why this occurs being found. However, what has been found is a number of health benefits linked to this unconscious explosion of thought.
Dreams can be interpreted in an unlimited amount of ways. Depending on the individual, these can be extremely elaborate, complex images experienced for what feels like hours, or simply an average dream that many have had before which can be easily translatable. For example, dreams in which you are being chased are often compared to feelings of anxiety and situations that we may not be paying attention to. Dreaming of flying can explain how much control you feel you have in your own life depending on the height and quality of flight. Regardless, cognitive activity occurring during sleep are important for memory consolidation and conflict resolution.
A person can dream during both REM sleep and non-REM sleep, though the most active our brains seem to be is during the REM stage. Studies conducted have shown that patients wakened during a non-REM state remembered a certain emotion that they may have buried in the past, now with a fresh outlook on how to resolve the issue. From that point on, each cycle of REM sleep following introduces a new way of looking at this emotional problem.
A link to decreased levels of depression has also been found in avid dreamers as well. Patients who have gone through traumatic life experiences often dream of these occurrences, which can actually result in better moods upon waking up. Though this may seem like the opposite outcome, dreams are largely dependent on our emotions, and experiencing them more during sleep can exhaust them while awake. While this is in no way saying dreams can cure depression, it can certainly provide new perspective on emotional turmoil for patients who may be struggling to cope.
Vivid dreams can actually shape our memories and assist us in learning. REM sleep helps us piece together everything we’ve experienced that day, which is a large reason why we are able to improve our skills in sports, music, and any activity that requires practice. It’s something that has been seen many times throughout the years, with musicians struggling to learn a new song who then master it after a full night’s sleep. Or, approaching a puzzle that you cannot solve the next day, finding it much easier than the day prior having dreamt of a different way to go about it.
Dreaming is something that many people enjoy, but few understand. While nightmares and frightful thoughts can occupy one’s mind during the night, constructive dreaming frequently occurs, which can result in improved memory and cognitive skills. So, the next time you are faced with a difficult situation that you can’t seem to master, sleep on it. You may just wake up with a new, refreshing perspective on the matter.