The Significance of Dreams

December 14, 2018

As we fall asleep, dreams drift into our mind, displaying vivid memories in different scenarios, and sometimes totally unfamiliar scenes. Some people overlook dreams and think they are just random thoughts and images circulating through our minds. However, dreams hold significance and are actually quite fascinating. Why are dreams important and what do they tell us?          

When we sleep, we often go through many stages of sleep. These stages consist of REM and NREM sleep, which have a great impact on our emotional and physical state. NREM (Non-Rapid-Eye Movement) sleep comes before REM (Rapid-Eye Movement) sleep and has four phases. The first two phases calm our body down and gets us prepared to relax. The third and fourth phase of NREM sleep helps relax our muscles and then repairs it by replenishing our body with a supply of blood to the muscles, energy stores, and tissue. These phases tend to last five to fifteen minutes. NREM sleep is then followed by REM sleep. During REM sleep, our brain and body go through many changes such as twitching of the face and limbs, fast and irregular breathing, increased heart rate, changes in body temperature, brain activity that is similar to brain activity when we are awake, and of course, the rapid movement of the eyes. The beginning stage of REM lasts around ten minutes, with each stage getting progressively longer. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “REM sleep is believed to benefit learning, memory, and mood. It is also thought to contribute to brain development in infants. A lack of REM sleep may have adverse implications for physical and emotional health.”

In a study done by Berkeley University, after waking people up during different sleep phases and having them solve a puzzle, those who were woken during REM sleep had much more positive and creative results. They were able to solve a lot more puzzles and were able to find solutions fairly quickly. However, those who were woken during NREM sleep were perplexed by many of the puzzles and could not come up with valid answers. 

Dreams are important because they help us relax emotionally and physically, often taking the anxiety and trauma out of real world problems or situations that we may have faced earlier on. Dreams can help us come up with an emotional resolution about a situation when we wake up the next morning. If we are worried about something we may have to deal with the next day, such as an exam, a job interview, or another high pressure scenario, dreams are a great way to visualize this situation and go over it in our mind. However, even though dreams can be helpful, they can quickly become nightmares. 

Nightmares occur when we are stressed about a particular thing. They are repressed thoughts. In other words, if we’re worried about something, we usually put it to the side and don’t think about it until we have to deal with it. Unfortunately, nightmares can force us to think about what we’re worried about, and can take a turn for the worst. They can cause us to wake up frantically in the middle of the night, with our whole body drenched in sweat, our heart racing, and our breaths being rushed.

 The topic of sleeping feels relevant to City and Country and other schools because the amount of sleep a student gets each night can determine their performance at school the next day. If a student gets woken during NREM sleep, their performance will most likely be weaker than those woken during REM sleep. This is crucial especially in the XIIIs, when students take standardized tests and have high school interviews early in the morning. If we’re not super focused and engaged in our work because of our sleep, this can lead to an inaccurate representation of how smart an applicant is.         

Dreams and nightmares are things that happen almost every night. For the most part, they are considered as benefits to human beings. Dreams can be incredibly useful, and we can even apply what we learned in a dream to our real life. Dreams should not be something that is just ignored and pushed to the side. They can be reoccuring, so we shouldn’t block them out. Dreams are important not only because of what they teach and how they can be helpful, but like our memories and ideas, they make up who we are.

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