We spend about four to six years of our lives dreaming. This is quite a long time. Despite this, we often do not remember the content in the morning – but some of our dreams remain in our memory for many years, even repeating themselves over and over again.
Dream experiences that are not possible in real life seem to be particularly memorable, such as deep, long falls where you still land softly and unscathed (or not at all), or the feeling of flying like a bird. (Also interesting: The optimal bedroom – this is what it looks like)
Why do we dream at all?
"When it comes to the function and meaning of our dreams, science is still quite a bit in the dark," says sleep expert Dr. Hans Gunter Weeb. "Currently, the most common hypothesis is the continuity hypothesis. It says that when we sleep, we process the things we have experienced during the day. At the same time, about 70 percent of dream content tends to be emotionally colored negatively. This means that we process the stressful things while we sleep rather than the positive ones."
This is an experience that children in particular have: whether it’s monsters in the closet or crooks under the bed – when children report dreams, they are usually associated with fear themes. Scientists have fathomed why people dream and what significance this has for their lives.
Dreaming in the REM phase
Whereas it was once assumed that we only dream during REM sleep, scientists now believe that we do so in all phases of sleep. However, subjects awakened in REM sleep were significantly more likely to report having dreamed – 80 percent, in fact, than those awakened in the non-REM stages (50 percent).
And dream content also differs. In REM sleep, emotional dreams dominate, especially feelings such as anger or fear are predominant, sometimes also euphoria and joy. In the other sleep phases, the dream content is more factual and more related to everyday things, which is why we almost never remember them.
What influences our dreams?
So about 70 percent of our dreams are about negative emotions – and the worse we felt the day before, the more pronounced and likely it is to be true. Our expert explains: "The amygdala, an emotion center in our brain, and the limbic system are conspicuously active in this state. The influence of our frontal brain, the seat of typical human rationality, is reduced during REM sleep. Thus, it is possible that during sleep we slip down into an irrational world seemingly without sense or reason."Unconsciously or unintentionally we influence what we dream, because our brain processes our actual experiences and feelings. (This is how long the ideal sleep duration is)
A currently much-discussed topic is lucid dreaming, often also referred to as lucid dreaming. "Lucid dreaming is currently a topic of interest to many people, but in reality only a few people succeed in doing so. In lucid dreams, we try to learn to actively control our dream content. This requires a lot of practice and only a few people succeed," says Dr. White.
Learning to influence both your own dreams and those of others is therefore hardly possible directly. However, the ability to control one’s dreams would be z.B. It is also useful for athletes, or an advantage for competitions: "You could practice and memorize new movements while you sleep."(Lose weight while sleeping – does it really work??)
Help with nightmares
Another issue that many people struggle with is nightmares. And to alleviate them is quite possible with a little practice. Basically, people who feel helpless or have many fears tend to have nightmares, therefore children are especially likely to have them. "To get rid of nightmares, it has worked for adults to try to first consciously relive the most common nightmare once or twice a day during the day for about two weeks, this can help the brain process it, so the dream gradually loses its terror." says Dr. White. (This is how you fight nightmares)
To deal effectively with the nightmare, you need the right approach: "The best way to do this is to consciously take a few minutes and withdraw, such as when meditating. Once the most common nightmare has lost its terror, you should pick a second and third one and repeat the procedure. After about the third pass, the nightmares usually disappear."(Expert tips: How to fall asleep better)
And how can I dream what I want now?
You are more likely to have beautiful dreams if you also feel good during the day. Therefore, the most important advice would be to try to do just that. And if you dream emotionally, this is not a bad thing, on the contrary, because you process feelings and experiences that move you.
Finally, a little tip: some people find it helps to put a pad and pen on their nightstand and, when they wake up and remember a dream, write down the content directly- just try it out. (You can find all articles about healthy sleep here)