"Dreams are the touchstones of our characters." - Henry David Thoreau What is a dream? A dream can include any of the images, thoughts and emotions that are experienced during sleep. Dreams can be extraordinarily vivid or very vague; filled with joyful emotions or frightening imagery; focused and understandable or unclear and confusing. Why do we dream? What purpose do dreams serve? While many theories have been proposed, no single consensus has emerged. Considering the enormous amount of time we spend in a dreaming state, the fact that researchers do not yet understand the purpose of dreams may seem baffling. However, it is important to consider that science is still unraveling the exact purpose and function of sleep itself. Some researchers suggest that dreams serve no real purpose, while others believe that dreaming is essential to mental, emotional and physical well-being. Ernest Hoffman, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Boston, Mass., suggests that "...a possible (though certainly not proven) function of a dream to be weaving new material into the memory system in a way that both reduces emotional arousal and is adaptive in helping us cope with further trauma or stressful events."8 1. Everybody Dreams
Men do it. Women do it. Even babies do it. We all dream, even those of us who claim not to. In fact, researchers have found that people usually have several dreams each night, each one lasting for between 5 to 20 minutes. During a typical lifetime, people spend an average of six yearsdreaming!
2. But You Forget Most of Your Dreams
According to estimates by dream researcher J. Allan Hobson, as much as 95 percent of all dreams are quickly forgotten shortly after waking. Why are our dreams so difficult to remember? According to one theory, the changes in the brain that occur during sleep do not support the information processing and storage needed for memory formation to take place. Brain scans of sleeping individuals have shown that the frontal lobes, the area that plays a key role in memory formation, are inactive during REM sleep, the stage in which dreaming occurs
3. Not All Dreams Are In Color While approximately 80 percent of all dreams are in color, there are a small percentage of people who claim to only dream in black and white. In studies where dreamers have been awakened and asked to select colors from a chart that match those in their dreams, soft pastel colors are those most frequently chosen
4. Men and Women Dream Differently
Researchers have found a number of differences between men and women when it comes to the content of their dreams. In one study, men reported more instances of dreaming about aggression than women did. According to dream researcher William Domhoff, women tend to have slightly longer dreams that feature more characters. When it comes to the characters that typically appear in dreams, men dream about other men twice as often as they do about women, while women tend to dream about both sexes equally.
5. Animals Probably Dream
Have you ever watched a sleeping dog wag its tail or move its legs while asleep? While it's hard to say for sure whether the animal is truly dreaming, researchers believe that it is likely that animals do indeed dream. Just like humans, animals go through sleep stages that include cycles of REM and NREM sleep. In one study, a gorilla was taught sign language as a means of communication. At one point, the gorilla signed "sleep pictures," possibly indicating the experience of dreaming.
6. You Can Control Your Dreams
A lucid dream is one in which you are aware that you are dreaming even though you are still asleep. During this type of dream, you can often "direct" or control the content of the dream. Approximately half of all people can remember experiencing at least one instance of lucid dreaming, and some individuals are able to have lucid dreams quite...
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