When we remember them, our dreams can seem bizarre – with impossible physical feats,
disconnected people and sudden changes in place. We wake up and think, “What was that about?”
For thousands of years humans have been fascinated with dreams, but we still don’t know as much as we’d like about them. We do know that the vast majority of humans dream every night. Sometimes dreams can be traced to our recent activities, as though our minds are trying to organize our experiences. Some people repeat the same
themes over and over in their dreams, and many of us share the same themes – such as flying like a bird or forgetting to attend a class until the final exam.
In 1953, the phenomenon of rapid eye movement (REM) was discovered. People who were awakened during REM sleep usually remembered vivid dreams, but when awakened during
non-REM sleep, they seldom remembered dreaming. This proved that our brains are
active during sleep.
Researchers also discovered that if they waked people just as they began dreaming,
these people exhibited increased tension, anxiety and irritability; along with difficulty concentrating. These results indicate that dreaming is important, and
that dream deprivation can have serious consequences.
We still don’t know exactly why we dream, but we do know that our brains are, and
should be, working while we sleep.