Three thousand years BCE, Mesopotamian kings recorded and interpreted their dreams on tablets made of wax . One millennium later, Ancient Egyptians wrote a dream book listing for more than hundred common dreams and their meanings. And in the years that came, we haven’t paused in our quest to understand why we dream. So, after a great technological advancement, scientific research, and persistence, we still don’t have any clue. All we have some are just some interesting theories.
We dream to solve problems
In your dreams, your mind is unbound to obey the laws of reality and common sense. He can create limitless scenarios to help you grasp problems and formulate solutions that you may not consider while awake. It is how renowned chemist August Kekule discovered the structure of the benzene molecule. John Steinbeck called it the committee of sleep, and researcher has demonstrated the effectiveness of dreaming on problem solving. So maybe that is the reason for the saying: The best solution for a problem is to sleep on it.
We dream to fulfill our wishes
It was Sigmund Freud who proposed that while all of our dreams, including our nightmares, are a collection of images from our daily conscious lives, they also have symbolic meanings, which relate to the fulfillment of our subconscious wishes. He theorized that everything we remember when we wake up from a dream is a symbolic representation of our unconscious primitive desires, urges, and thoughts . Dr. Freud believed that by analyzing those remembered elements, the unconscious content would be revealed to our conscious mind, and psychological issues from its repression could be addressed and resolved.
We dream to keep our brains working
To increase performance on certain mental tasks, sleep is good, but dreaming while sleeping is better.
What the continual activation theory proposes is that your dreams result from your brain’s need to constantly consolidate and create long-term memories in order to function properly. So when external input falls below a certain level, like when you’re asleep, your brain automatically triggers the generation of data from its memory storages, which appear to you in the form of the thoughts and feelings you experience in your dreams. I.E. your dreams might be a random background process that your brain turns on so it doesn’t completely shut down.
We dream to rehearse
Whether it’s an anxiety-filled night of being chased through a dark alley by a thieve or fighting off a dragon in a castle, these dreams allow you to practice your fight or flight instincts and keep them sharp and dependable in case you’ll need them in real life. Dreams involving dangerous and threatening situations are very common, and the primitive instinct rehearsal theory holds that the content of a dream is significant just for that purpose. But this is not just for nightmares. Dreaming about your attractive neighbor could actually give your reproductive instinct some practice, too.
We dream to heal
Stress neurotransmitters in the brain are much less active during the REM stage of sleep, even during dreams of traumatic experiences, leading some researchers to theorize that one purpose of dreaming is to take the edge off painful experiences to allow for psychological healing. Reviewing traumatic events in your dreams with less mental stress may grant you a clearer perspective and enhanced ability to process them in psychologically healthy ways. People with certain mood disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder often have difficulty sleeping, leading some scientists to believe that lack of dreaming may be a contributing factor to their illnesses.
We dream to remember
In 2010, researchers found that subjects were much better at getting through a complex 3-D maze if they had napped and dreamed of the maze prior to their second attempt. How much? They were up to ten times better at it than those who only thought of the maze while awake between attempts, and those who napped but did not dream about the maze. Some researchers theorize that certain memory processes can happen only when we are asleep, and our dreams are a signal that these processes are taking place.
We dream to forget
There are about 10,000 trillion neural connections within the architecture of your brain. A 1983 neurobiological theory of dreaming, called reverse learning, holds that while sleeping, and mainly during REM sleep cycles, your neocortex reviews these neural connections and removes the unnecessary ones. They suggest that our brain could be overrun by useless connections without this unlearning process, which results in your dreams, and parasitic thoughts could disrupt the necessary thinking we need to do while you’re awake.
These are just a few of the more prominent theories. It’s possible that one day we will discover the definitive reason for dream. Until then.. sleep tight.