The 411 on dreams
For centuries, humans have been intrigued by the idea of dreams and what they represent. What is a dream?
“Dreams are complex subconscious imaginings that occur while you sleep and can include sounds, images or another sensual arousal,” says Dr. Muhammad Hamadeh, medical director of the sleep disorders center at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
A night of sleep is comprised of repeating the four-staged sleep cycle. As the stages progress for about 90 minutes, brain waves behave differently, and the body falls into deeper sleep. Dreams commonly occur during the fifth stage, the deepest stage of the sleep cycle.
“Stage four, called rapid eye movement, is characterized by our eyes darting underneath the eyelids while the rest of the muscles in our body are at ease,” says Dr. Hamadeh. “The eye movement may be associated with dreaming during this stage, but it is still a scientific mystery.”
Dreams can feel like real events, especially if you are woken up during the final sleep stage. People often dream about familiar events, people and things or even subjects they do not know. The most common dream subjects reported by Psychology Today and published in the journal Dreaming include:
- School-related dreams
- Being chased, flying or falling
- Sexual dreams
- Embarrassment (ex: being late, being inappropriately dressed or nude)
- Being attacked
“Though science does not understand exactly why we dream and is unable to decode the direct meaning behind dreams, we know that dreaming is an outcome of deep sleep, which is a good thing,” says Dr. Hamadeh. “Dreaming has long been a part of human history, and neuroscientists continue to research the effect sleep and dreams have on our brain.”
About the Author
Allison Garetto, health enews contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a senior at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where she is pursuing a degree in communication and a minor in psychology. Allison is a vegetarian, artist and travel enthusiast.