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The Psychology Behind Dreaming | The Science of Sleep | Episode 2

by Lucy Knight on November 22, 2018


The psychology behind dreams

The best part of a good night’s sleep may be a dream you had. You may wake up and feel amused at what gibberish you can conjure up from your subconscious. However, dreams may tell a lot more about you than you think – they’re thoughts, emotions and the images shaped by them. It is thought that during an average human lifespan, you’ll spent 6 years of your life dreaming. So, you need to know what your dreams say about you and how they can have an effect on your life, even when you’re awake!

You will encounter dreams during the rapid eye movement stage of sleep. Interestingly, nobody knows the real purpose of dreams but it has been close linked with human psychology. But how? Well, dreams are thought to express your hidden desires. You have dreams when your thoughts and memories are being reorganised during sleep, the way we perceive dreams depends on what you link your dream images to.

Sigmund Freud was a believer in the theory that dreams are the means of one’s expressions of their own unconscious wishes. Nightmares can be explained as they allow the brain to gain control over the feelings emerging from distressful experiences, he proposes. Hungarian Psychoanalyst Ferenczi believed a similar thing to Freud, he believed a dream expresses something that cannot be expressed outright, in real life. Repressed emotions appear in the form of a dream, that is fantasised during sleep. A popular theory also states that dreams are a side effect of the cleaning-up operations of the brain, which appears in a lot of underlining basis for theories on explanations of dreams.


Living in technicolour

These explanations for why we have dreams may help us understand them a little more but they don’t explain what the significance of the content of your dreams are. According to dream psychology, the different parts of dreams are closely related to experience and the environment the person is exposed to. We only dream in colour become of the many years we’re exposed to colour media, in todays society. This is a direct finding of a study where it was found elderly people who were born and raised in a time of black and white TV, used to have black and white dreams more often than coloured ones. This is an interesting fact in trying to understand how much of an affect our environment has on our dreams and therefore its effect on us emotionally. These colours that appear in our dreams are believed to carry emotions that are represented by them. A common observation from studies involving dreams is that people often dream as an onlooker in the dream, they watch the incident. Visual and auditory senses form a part of dreams but touch and taste are less commonly experienced. 

The research and theoretical beliefs about dreams is so hard to gain a professional consensus throughout science as dream psychology believes that the association between events dreamt and their meanings is subjective. They believe it depends on the person and therefore it’s impossible to gain a common finding or conclusion in research involving dreams. Recurring dreams has been a phenomenon that scientists have been baffled about for years. It feels like research in this area is always incomplete due to the complex emotions and processes of dreams. However, recurring dreams have been explained as happening because they hold a message that the individual is not noticing. For example, recurring dreams of falling from a great height is explained as indicating that the individual lacks support in their life, or not being able to move may indicate that the individual is in a situation that they cannot get out of, in real life.


Does everyone dream?

“So, Lucy, if dreams happen because of our experiences and environment – do blind people dream?” I hear you whimper. They do. Auditory sense are more common in their dreams than the average person. Images are absent unless, interestingly, they once had sight but lost it- then they will have the same images from their memories repeated over and over again. The brain is a confusing and complex machine that we’re no closer to explaining compared to what we knew back in the 1960’s.

Dreams are interesting to delve into. They can make or break a good night’s sleep. They can make you evaluate situations in your life, make you question how you feel and also leave you needing reassurance of your feelings. Dreams can have such a hold and profound effect on an individual, and yet we know nothing about them. As Happy Linen Company strives to improve and redefine the concept of a good sleep, we hope scientists make a breakthrough in explaining dreams soon (so we can focus on perfecting the formula for everlasting peace in bed!)


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