Dreams have fascinated philosophers for thousands of years, but only recently have dreams been subjected to empirical research and concentrated scientific study. Chances are that you’ve often found yourself puzzling over the mysterious content of a dream, or perhaps you’ve wondered why you dream at all.
First, let’s start by answering a basic question – What is a dream? A dream can include any of the images, thoughts and emotions that are experienced during sleep. Dreams can be extraordinarily vivid or very vague; filled with joyful emotions or frightening imagery; focused and understandable or unclear and confusing.
Why do we dream? What purpose do dreams serve? While many theories have been proposed, no single consensus has emerged. Considering the enormous amount of time we spend in a dreaming state, the fact that researchers do not yet understand the purpose of dreams may seem baffling. However, it is important to consider that science is still unraveling the exact purpose and function of sleep itself.
Some researchers suggest that dreams serve no real purpose, while others believe that dreaming is essential to mental, emotional and physical well-being. Ernest Hoffman, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Boston, Mass., suggests that “…a possible (though certainly not proven) function of a dream to be weaving new material into the memory system in a way that both reduces emotional arousal and is adaptive in helping us cope with further trauma or stressful events.
«Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.» — Henry David Thoreau
So, what are you dreaming of?