All people experience dreams, and still, up to today, experts are still baffled why we suffer these. Of course, we humans are not the only ones who experience dreams, on observations, animals too are having dreams or nightmares as well. There are superstitions about why we dream. Some say it is our conscience that replays all our memories. Either it is happy of unfortunate events that happened to us previously during our sleep, our deepest desires who materialize only in our thoughts, or our worries and fears, that came to haunt us during our time of being unconscious. There is a lot of explanation about dreams, but still no definite proof of why we have them.
Experts have determined that REM, or Rapid Eye Movement during our sleep has something to do about dreaming. While we are sleeping, it is observed that we switch between REM sleep and non-REM sleep, and imagines only happen during the REM sleep phase. The reason for this dreaming is still vague and ambiguous.
REM Sleeping: A Stage of Sleep Cycle
Now, what is REM sleep? And what is happening when we experience this? Well, REM sleep or Rapid Eye Movement sleep and sometimes called paradoxical sleep or desynchronized sleep. It is a distinctive and one of a kind point in sleep, which exclusively occurs in mammals and birds. REM sleep is comprised of quick eye movements (hence the name) usually in a random pattern, followed by low, continuous and passive partial or limited contraction of the muscles around the body. It is also the phase where most dreams occur.
Dreams which occur during REM sleep are usually intense, vivid and almost lifelike. Thus, the dreamer will sometimes believe that their dreams are happening in real life. These dreams generally invoke the dreamer’s emotion like fear, anger, joy, and so on. Sometimes making the dreamer experience happy dreams or terrible nightmares occur.
REM Sleeping to Dreaming
There are two kinds of sleep, the non-REM sleep, and the REM sleep. These two alternates during our sleep, which usually takes around an average of 90 minutes. As sleep progresses, the sequence gradually changes. And REM sleep becomes longer than non-REM sleep. This shift from non-REM sleep to REM sleep brings physical changes to the person sleeping like changes in their heart rate, breathing and body temperature. Also, the body experiences REM atonia or a sudden loss of strength of the muscles.
Most dreams happen during REM Sleep, and usually, around 2 hours of REM sleep is experienced during our sleep every night. It is still a mystery why we dream, and its connection to REM sleep. Possibly we dream because during REM sleep our minds become active unconscious and generate those thoughts that we perceive like dreams. But it is just a speculation. Same goes with other myths and superstitions by different cultures throughout history. Even the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud speculated that dreams are a place where we can explore our more in-depth, suppressed emotions and desires within our unconscious mind.
Through countless studies, observations and experiments, we today know that REM sleep produces dreams. The big question is still open for answers: why do we dream? This question lingers in the minds of experts and intellectuals all over the world throughout history. A commonly occurring experience that we all no stranger to, yet so baffling and up till today, is still shrouded in mystery.
We may be one step closer to have an answer to the question of why we experience dreams. And the first piece of the puzzle has already been uncovered. It is now time to find the other missing parts and to put them together to formulate a solid, scientific explanation on why we dream. REM sleep, just like any other mysteries hidden deep within our complex minds, is still up for discovery.