Whether we know it or not is a different story, but the fact is everybody dreams.
If you ever remember your dreams, odds are they are pretty strange. Weird things happen that are completely unexplainable in real life. But somehow, they have some sort of relationship with your reality—whether that be a recognizable face, scenario, or feeling.
But why this happens is an age-old question that scientists still don’t understand. Even so, there are several theories as to why we dream what we dream. And they all have to do with the nighttime activity in our brain:
Physical and Mental Health
Oftentimes, physical and mental health can determine what you dream. And usually, if you’ve experienced something traumatic or emotionally distressing, you will have nightmares.
Those who live with depression and anxiety are more likely to experience nightmares than those who do not have these conditions. The reason why this is the case is not well understood, but it has a close relationship with brain wave activity and stress.
People who have certain physical conditions are also more likely to experience nightmares—although less common than those with mental health disorders.
Sleep apnea and migraine are two conditions that are said to increase the likelihood of regular nightmares.
Some people may experience certain types of dreams while taking medications.
Medications, such as SSRI’s, can cause regular nightmares. This is because some of these medications suppress deep sleep.
Some steroid medications, beta blockers, and sleep aids list nightmares as one of the side effects because they effect how the brain responds to certain neurotransmitters.
Brain Wave Activity
Our brain wave activity is one of the biggest factors for why we dream what we dream. During sleep, our brains reorganize information and interpret memories—both of which require brain wave activity. And it’s this activity that causes us to dream.
Most people are able to pick out small parts of their dream that relate to their everyday life. Sometimes these parts are small, like familiar faces or names. In fact, a study found that 48% of dream characters were recognizable by the dreamer. We are most likely dreaming about these people because our brain is processing memory.
Daily life doesn’t always present itself in dreams right away, though. It may take several days or weeks. This process is called a dream lag, but it still has a close relationship with our brain processing information and memory.
Scientists still don’t understand the reasons why we dream what we dream, but there are certainly a ton of factors that cause the types of dreams we dream. Interpreting them, though, is wholly up to you.
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