Do you dream? Do you create pictures and stories/ in your mind/ as you sleep? Today, we are going to explore dreaming. People/ have had ideas/ about the meaning and importance of dreams/ for hundreds of years. Today/ brain researchers/ are learning even more/ about dreams.
Dreams/ are expressions/ of thoughts, feelings and events/ that pass through our mind/ while we are sleeping. People/ dream about one to two hours/ each night. We may have four to seven dreams/ in one night. Everybody/ dreams. But only some people/ remember their dreams.
The word “dream”/ comes from an old word/ in English/ that means “joy” and “music.” We dream/ in color. Our dreams/ often include all the senses -- smells, sounds, sights, tastes and things/ we touch. Sometimes/ we dream the same dream/ over and over again. These repeated dreams/ are often unpleasant/ and may even be nightmares, or bad dreams/ that sometimes/ frighten us.
Artists, writers and scientists sometimes say/ they get ideas/ from dreams. For example, the singer Paul McCartney/ of the Beatles/ said/ he awakened one day/ with the music/ for the song “Yesterday”/ in his head. The writer Mary Shelley said/ she had a very strong dream/ about a scientist/ using a machine/ to make a creature/ come alive. When she awakened, she began to write her book/ about a scientist/ named Frankenstein/ who creates a frightening monster.
People/ have been trying to decide/ what dreams mean/ for thousands of years. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed/ dreams/ provided messages/ from the gods. Sometimes/ people/ who could understand dreams/ would help military leaders/ in battle.
In ancient Egypt, people/ who could explain dreams/ were believed to be special. In the Christian Bible, there are more than seven hundred comments or stories/ about dreams. Stories/ about the birth of the Muslim leader Mohammed/ include important events/ that were first learned/ in dreams -- including the birth of Mohammed/ and his name.
In China, people believed/ that dreams/ were a way/ to visit with family members/ who had died. Some Native American tribes and Mexican civilizations believe/ dreams/ are a different world/ we visit/ when we sleep.
In Europe, people believed/ that dreams/ were evil/ and could lead people/ to do bad things. Two hundred years ago, people/ awakened after four or five hours of sleep/ to think about their dreams/ or talk about them/ with other people. Then/ they returned to sleep/ for another four to five hours.
Early in the twentieth century, two famous scientists/ developed different ideas/ about dreams. Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud/ published a book/ called “The Interpretation of Dreams”/ in nineteen hundred. Freud believed/ people often dream about things/ they want/ but cannot have, especially connected to sex and aggression.
For Freud, dreams/ were full of hidden meaning. He tried to understand dreams/ as a way/ to understand people/ and why they acted or thought/ in certain ways. Freud believed/ that every thought and every action/ started deep/ in our brains. He thought/ dreams/ could be an important road/ to understanding/ what is happening/ in our brains.
Freud/ told people/ what their dreams/ meant/ as a way/ of helping them/ solve problems/ or understand their worries. For example, Freud said/ when people/ dream of flying or swinging, they want to be free/ of their childhood. When a person dreams/ that a brother or sister or parent/ has died, the dreamer/ is really hiding feelings/ of hatred/ for that person. Or a desire/ to have/ what the other person/ has.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung/ worked closely with Freud/ for several years. But he developed very different ideas/ about dreams. Jung believed/ dreams could help people/ grow and understand themselves. He believed/ dreams/ provide solutions/ to problems/ we face/ when we are awake. He also believed/ dreams/ tell us/ something/ about ourselves/ and our relations/ with other people. He did not believe/ dreams/ hide our feelings/ about sex or aggression.
Today/ we know more/ about the science of dreaming/ because researchers/ can take pictures/ of people’s brains/ while they are sleeping.
In nineteen fifty-three, scientists/ discovered a special kind of sleep/ called REM, or rapid eye movement. Our eyes/ move back and forth/ very quickly/ while they are closed. Our bodies/ go through several periods of sleep/ each night. REM sleep/ is the fourth period. We enter REM sleep/ four to seven times/ each night.
During REM sleep, our bodies/ do not move/ at all. This is the time/ when we dream. If people/ are awakened/ during their REM sleep, they will remember their dreams/ almost ninety percent/ of the time. This is true/ even for people/ who say/ they do not dream.
One kind of dreaming/ is called/ lucid dreaming. People/ know/ during a dream/ that they are dreaming. An organization in Canada/ called the Dreams Foundation/ believes/ you can train yourself/ to have lucid dreams/ by paying very close attention/ to your dreams/ and writing them down. The Dreams Foundation believes/ this is one way/ to become more imaginative and creative.
The foundation/ organizes groups of people/ who travel to wild, natural areas/ around the world. Here/ they can be quiet, ride small boats/ on a calm river or lake/ and learn how to have lucid dreams. These people believe/ their dreams/ can help them/ understand or even find solutions/ to personal or community problems.
Scientists/ have done much serious research/ into dreams/ and how to use them/ in treating mental or emotional problems. The Association for the Study of Dreams/ holds an international meeting/ every year. Scientists/ at one meeting/ talked about ways/ to help victims of crime/ who have very bad dreams/ called nightmares. Scientists/ have also studied dreams and creativity, dreams of people/ who are sick/ and dreams of children.
Scientists/ who study dreaming/ often attach wires/ to the head of a person/ who is sleeping. The wires/ record electrical activity/ in the brain. These studies show/ that the part of the brain/ in which we feel emotion/ is very active/ when we dream.
The front part of the brain/ is much less active; this is the center/ of our higher level thinking processes/ like organization and memory. Some scientists believe/ this is why our dreams/ often seem strange/ and out of order.
Researcher Rosalind Cartwright says/ dreams/ are like memories/ all placed on top of each other. They are connected/ by feelings/ rather than orderly thinking. Miz Cartwright/ works at the Sleep Disorder Service and Research Center/ at Rush Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Medical Center/ in Chicago, Illinois.
She is studying the different ways/ people dream/ if they are feeling very sad or worried, especially if their marriage/ is ending. She and many other researchers/ have found/ that dreams/ have more anger, fear and worry/ than joy or happiness.
Other researchers/ are studying/ how dreaming/ helps our bodies/ work with problems/ and very sad emotions. Robert Stickgold/ is a professor of psychiatry/ at Harvard University/ in Massachusetts. Doctor Stickgold says/ that when we dream, the brain/ is trying to make sense/ of the world.
It does so/ by putting our memories together/ in different ways/ to make new connections and relationships. Doctor Stickgold believes/ that dreaming/ is a biological process. He does not agree with Sigmund Freud/ that dreaming is the way/ we express our hidden feelings and desires.
In Finland, Antti Revonsuo/ is another scientist/ who studies the brain. He believes/ people/ dream about threatening events or situations/ so they can practice/ how they might deal with such events/ or avoid them. Doctor Revonsuo says/ threatening events/ appear often/ in dreams of adults and children/ all around the world.
All of these scientists believe/ it is important to keep researching dreams. Doctor Stickgold says/ it has been more than one hundred years/ since Sigmund Freud/ published his important book/ about dreaming. Yet/ scientists/ still do not agree/ on exactly how the brain works/ when we are dreaming/ or why we dream.