DO you ever wonder what fires your imagination as you sleep, causing vivid dreams – or nightmares?
This week, in an exclusive series, nutritionist Rob Hobson reveals the reasons for poor sleep and how to fix them.
We are bringing you insights from Rob’s exclusive B.E.D. plan, looking at how Behaviour, Environment and Diet affect shut-eye and how to manage these.
Today we look at how dreams affect our sleep quality. Read more in the print edition of The Sun.
WHY we dream and what dreams mean are among the least understood features of sleep.
Our thoughts can take fantastic turns at night — sometimes random, at other times related to experiences we have been through during our waking hours.
Our most intense dreams happen during the REM stage of the sleep cycle, when the brain is very active. But others occur during NREM sleep — and these can include nightmares.
Psychiatrists and psychologists have long tried to explain our dreams.
Nineteenth-century Austrian thinker Sigmund Freud suggested dreams reveal our deepest, unconscious desires, through various symbols.
In his book The Interpretation Of Dreams, he suggests dream symbols can represent real figures in our life — such as kings and queens standing in for parents, and small animals or vermin for children.
He says birth is almost always represented by some reference to water — plunging in, climbing out or being rescued from it — while death is signified in dreams by taking a journey.
Much of Freud’s dream symbolism revolves around sex — with symbols such as umbrellas, trees, poles, water fountains, swords and firearms representing the male phallus, and fruits, mouths, churches, paper objects, bottles and ships associated with women.
Other theories offered by researchers have suggested dreams might be a form of memory processing whereby the brain consolidates the day’s learning and other experiences, and that they could even offer a way of developing cognitive capabilities.
It has also been argued that dreams are an ancient biological defence mechanism, simulating threatening events so we are more perceptive and able to avoid them in real life.
Others believe they are a result of random activity in the brain.
Rather than being in bed with Ryan Gosling, it’s more common to dream about being naked in public or your teeth falling out. But do those dreams have any meaning?
Meaning of dreams laid bare
MUCH has been documented about the phenomenon of dreams, the reasons why we have them, and their meanings.
Ancient Egyptian texts on the significance of dreams date way back to 2000 BC.
For many of us, dreams indicate a deep desire or need, an ambition we hope to achieve or a goal we wish to accomplish. For others, they play a vital part in helping us understand what we are really feeling in our waking lives.
But there are also myths about dreams that need to be debunked.
Here, Calm – the firm behind an app for sleep, meditation and relaxation – looks at dream themes and what they may mean.
Being in public NAKED
NO one wants to get caught naked in public – but what if it happens in a dream?
This is very common but can be interpreted in many ways, depending on how it makes you feel.
Feeling comfortable while naked in a dream can indicate a sense of freedom and confidence, giving you a sense of power.
This is useful to harness in your waking life.
But if the nakedness makes you feel out of place, it can indicate insecurity.
Try to take time to reflect on how you felt after your dream – and how it impacted the day that followed it.
Your teeth are falling OUT
ONE of the most common dreams in deep sleep is that your teeth are falling out.
It can be anything from the wiggle of a single tooth to an entire mouthful falling out into your hands.
This is often symbolic of an individual’s feeling of being powerless, or a perception that they are not in control of their life.
But if you are experiencing this sort of dream, you are far from alone.
It’s important to consider the context of your dream and how it made you feel – dreams are only as powerful as you allow them to be.
You are being CHASED
BEING chased, or fleeing from a situation, in a dream can be telling of what you are experiencing in everyday life.
Being pursued can represent anxiety about what’s happening in your life, triggering the “flight” response – of the “fight or flight” theory – that we default to when facing a challenge.
If you can pinpoint what you are trying to get away from, you will have a better chance of overcoming it and, in turn, understanding what it means.
Ask yourself: Am I being chased by something or by someone? And are they new to me or familiar?
FLYING through the air
DREAMS where you fly can indicate that you feel in control, confident and ready to take on challenges.
If you can harness these dreams and control your speed, direction and distance from the ground, this could impact how you approach everyday challenges and come up with solutions.
During sleep, we are in a deep state of relaxation where we have the ability to think outside the box. In fact, some of the most creative figures in history came up with their best ideas or discoveries as a result of dreaming – and often cited flying as a theme.
FALLING from a height
AN opposing feeling to flying is that of falling – and this is another common dream that many of us experience, often again and again.
A plunge can indicate a lack of control and a sense of helplessness in your everyday life.
If you feel yourself falling out of control, unable to stop or slow down, you may be experiencing the same lack of control in your waking hours.
If you can try to harness your dream, and attempt to control where you are going, this can have significant positive repercussions for your work and daily life.
Panicking that you are LATE
BEING late can mean you are worried about missing out on things that matter to you.
Whether you are running out of time to get to work, a social event or even school, this dream can indicate you are taking on too much in your waking life and feel overwhelmed as a result.
The next time you find yourself dreaming, think about how you can harness this to benefit your everyday life, and maybe consider keeping a diary to track your dreams.