Dreams, what do they mean? While there have been many theories, like Sigmund Freud’s who thought our dreams were a window to our unconscious repressed conflicts, or Alfred Adler’s who believed that dreams reflect current lifestyles and offer answers to modern problems, scientists still do not know much about why or how we dream.
What experts do know is the importance of sleep for our mental and physical stability, and that we must sleep to dream. Modern dream research was thrust back into the scientific spotlight with the discovery of REM sleep (rapid eye movement) and its association with dreaming, as people typically have their more vivid dreams during the REM cycle.
While we do know that other mammals and birds show signs of a REM sleep, dreaming is difficult to prove. Researchers do believe that we generally spend two hours a night dreaming, and that dream image intensity is related to emotional arousal. Now that we better understand the function and necessity of sleep, it’s understandable to think that dreaming may have a legitimate function on our sleep process as well. “If dreaming has an actual function, “ said Jim Pagel, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Southern Colorado, “it really supports why we spend a third of our lives sleeping.”