Have you ever felt scared, helpless, or afraid in your dreams? You’re not alone. The most common dream emotion is anxiety or the feelings associated with anxiety. Very Well Mind reports that people commonly report dreaming about deeply embarrassing situations like being nude or using the bathroom in public, or profoundly terrifying events such as being chased by an attacker. Additionally, most dreams don’t follow any rhythm or rhyme and are all over the place. This includes time travel, talking animals, and dead people coming back to life. Entering Dreamland is a bit freakier than we previously thought.
We forget up to 90% of our dreams once we wake up. There are some people out there, though, who are pros at dreaming and remember every single dream they have. But many of us forget most of our dreams. Why is that? We have too much to remember throughout the day. Dreams aren’t the most important things we need to remember, so our brain works hard to forget them. According to NIH, “MCH neurons help the brain actively forget new, possibly, unimportant information. Since dreams are thought to primarily occur during REM sleep, the sleep stage when the MCH cells turn on, activation of these cells may prevent the content of a dream from being stored in the hippocampus, consequently, the dream is quickly forgotten.” Since dream information is unimportant, we don’t remember most of them.
Negative Dreams Are More Common Than Positive Ones
For some reason, we spend most of the night dreaming of negative dreams instead of positive ones. What’s the point in going to bed if we’re just going to have a fitful sleep? It’s because most of us have selective memory for intense, negative emotions, like sadness and fear. That being said, scientists have found that nightmares are good for you. According to Elemental, bad dreams could help reduce anxiety around real-life situations by acting as emotional dress rehearsals. Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D., a professor at Harvard claims that nightmares are an instinctive mechanism, that helps keep us on guard, even if we don’t have to worry as much about the same things our ancestors had to.
If you want to experience lucid dreaming, you’re in luck. There’s a drug for that, and it’s called Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). While we’re not promoting the use of illicit drugs, people who don’t want to escape their dreaming phases use this intense psychedelic. According to The Minds Journal, these medications greatly improve the likelihood of having extended lucid dreams and dream recall by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine (ACh), which is essential for memory, learning, and REM sleep. We have DMT naturally occurring in our brains, but it’s also found in several plant species around the world. When taken in high doses, users often report breakthroughs and intense hallucinations, much like what we experience in our sleep.
Not being able to run or scream in our dreams may be related to the paralysis we’re experiencing when we sleep. REM sleep is to blame. Certified sleep expert Julie Lambert says, “the inability to scream, as well as run or punch someone in your dream, appears because your brain areas that control motor neurons are switched off during sleep. Motor neurons are responsible for any muscle contractions. Since your pharynx and tongue, which are used to make a scream, are muscles too, you cannot scream when asleep.” You may find that as you wake up, you’re finally able to run or scream in your dream. Luckily, you’re almost awake at this point so hopefully, you don’t need to run anymore.
Most of us equate sleeping with restfulness and peace. In reality, dreaming (REM sleep) is the time when our brains are most active at night. The brain is working on critical tasks and processing emotions from the day and previous weeks. It’s also working to energize us for the next day when we wake up. According to Ninds, “the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure involved in processing emotions, becomes increasingly active during REM sleep.” Stage-3 non-REM sleep is the period of deep sleep that aids in us feeling refreshed the next day, which happens in the first half of the night
When we say everyone dreams, we mean it. This includes blind people, especially people who lost their sight later in life. Dreams don’t always have to be visual, you can dream using your other senses. Sleep Foundation tells us that, “although their visual dream content is reduced, other senses are enhanced in dreams of the blind. A dreaming blind person experiences more sensations of sound, touch, taste, and smell than sighted people do. Blind people are also more likely to have certain types of dreams than sighted people. For example, blind people seem to experience more dreams about movement or travel and more nightmares.” Just because someone doesn’t have a sense of vision, doesn’t mean they’re stopped from dreaming up a storm.
Some people believe that dreams are premonitions. We got this idea from the Egyptians. The number of times we’ve dreamt something and it hasn’t come true just proves that no, we cannot predict the future while dreaming. Statistically speaking, we will eventually dream about something that coincidentally will happen in the future. Though, that’s not to say it’s impossible. Let’s take a look at some examples. Abraham Lincoln dreamt of his assassination, Curl Jung dreamt of the death of his mother, and many of the 9/11 victims dreamt about the event. What we can say for certain, though, is that while we can’t predict future events, we may predict future diseases. The Sleep Foundation tells us that “in people with Parkinson’s disease, dreams containing negative emotions are correlated with future cognitive decline.”
Let’s say you dreamt about an old friend from high school. You might think it’s a sign from the universe that you should reach out to them, but it’s not all that random or strange. Dreaming helps our brains process information that’s swirling around our brains, consciously or not. It’s not much deeper than that. It’s possible that you saw someone during the day that reminded your brain of your former acquaintance or someone you used to know in life. Your brain stores the information, whether you wanted it to or not. It’s all out of our control, which is why dreaming might make us feel uncomfortable at times. So. no, just because you dreamt about your high-school ex doesn’t mean you should reach out to them. Let your brain do the work and leave it at that (The List).
American Indian cultures tell us that dream catchers influence dreams by “catching” bad dreams. It’s symbolic. It’s also said they retain dreams and help promote a deep sleep with dreams about revelations. Craft Buds tells us “dreamcatcher hoop is believed to be depicting the circle of life, work-life balance, pleasure, mental satisfaction, and self-love. Native Americans invented dreamcatchers. They believed it would help them have better nights of sleep.” Dream catchers catch the good dreams and get rid of the bad dreams. While we’re unsure if they do work or not, at the very least, they help people while they’re dreaming and make them feel safe and supported.
We only dream about familiar faces and people. It doesn’t have to be someone close to you, either, it could be someone you saw outside on the street or someone on television. Either way, it’s someone you’ve seen in real life. Our brains are unable to create new faces. It can only present us with faces we already know, even if we don’t remember who they are in real life. But our brains are smarter than we think, and they remember the faces subconsciously that we do not remember consciously (Neurotray). This is all thanks to the brain’s temporal lobe, the area of our brain that helps us recognize faces. Dreaming about someone we don’t know or recognize can give us some insight into our psyche. It means we’re either feeling insecure or jealous about something that someone else has, that we want.
Taking a look at your dreams will help you figure out your mental and emotional state during the day. While some dreams might not make any sense, others are highly meaningful and can benefit you in the long run by taking a closer look at them. According to the Washington Post, Alan Eiser, a psychologist at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, says some dreams may be highly meaningful because they “deal with the sort of personal conflicts and emotional struggles that people are experiencing in their daily lives.”