Dream Definition:

 

Dreams may be defined as Emotions, ideas, sensations, images & other feelings which you experience involuntarily in the mind during sleep. It can also be described as a connection to your subconscious mind and the connection may range from normal to bizarre. In simple terms, during your waking life you feel a lot of emotions and a lot of uncountable events are happening around you some of which are registered in your subconscious mind which later on come in the form of dreams while you are asleep.

 

Dream Process:

 

Dreams mainly occur in therapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep—whenbrain activityis high and resembles that of being awake. REM sleep is revealed by continuous movements of the eyes during sleep. At times, dreams may occur during otherstages of sleep. However, these dreams tend to be much less vivid or memorable.

The length of a dream can vary; they may last for a few seconds, or approximately 20–30 minutes.People are more likely to remember the dream if they are awakened during the REM phase. The average person has three to five dreams per night, but some may have up to seven dreams in one night.The dreams tend to last longer as the night progresses. During a full eight-hour night sleep, most dreams occur in the typical two hours of REM.

During a typical lifespan, a person spends a total of about six years dreaming (which is about two hours each night).  Most dreams only last 5 to 20 minutes. It is unknown where in the brain dreams originate, if there is a single origin for dreams or if multiple portions of the brain are involved, or what the purpose of dreaming is for the body or mind.

During REM sleep, the release of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and histamine is completely suppressed.

During most dreams, the person dreaming is not aware that they are dreaming, no matter how absurd or eccentric the dream is. The reason for this is the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for logic and planning, exhibits decreased activity during dreams. This allows the dreamer to more actively interact with the dream without thinking about what might happen, as things that would normally stand out in reality blend in with the dream scenery.

Dreams at the end of the night may last as long as 15 minutes, although these may be experienced as several distinct stories due to momentary arousals interrupting sleep as the night ends. Dream reports can be reported from normal subjects on 50% of the occasion when an awakening is made prior to the end of the first REM period. This rate of retrieval is increased to about 99% when awakenings are made from the last REM period of the night. This increase in the ability to recall appears related to intensification across the night in the vividness of dream imagery, colors, and emotions.

 

Theories  About Dreams:

 

Freudian view of dreams

In the late 19th century, psychotherapist Sigmund Freud developed a theory that the content of dreams is driven by unconscious wish fulfillment. Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious." He theorized that the content of dreams reflects the dreamer's unconscious mind and specifically that dream content is shaped by unconscious wish fulfillment. He argued that important unconscious desires often relate to early childhood memories and experiences. Freud's theory describes dreams as having both manifest andlatent content. Latent content relates to deep unconscious wishes or fantasies while manifest content is superficial and meaningless. Manifest content often masks or obscures latent content.

 

Jungian Theory

Carl Jung rejected many of Freud's theories. Jung expanded on Freud's idea that dream content relates to the dreamer's unconscious desires. He described dreams as messagesto the dreamer and argued that dreamers should pay attention for their own good. He came to believe that dreams present the dreamer with revelations that can uncover and help to resolve emotional or religious problems and fears.

Jung wrote that recurring dreams show up repeatedly to demand attention, suggesting that the dreamer is neglecting an issue related to the dream. He believed that many of the symbols or images from these dreams return with each dream. Jung believed that memories formed throughout the day also play a role in dreaming. These memories leave impressions for the unconscious to deal with when the ego is at rest. The unconscious mind re-enacts these glimpses of the past in the form of a dream.

 

Fritz Perls Theory

Fritz Perls presented his theory of dreams as part of the holistic nature of Gestalt therapy. Dreams are seen as projections of parts of the self that have been ignored, rejected, orsuppressed. Jung argued that one could consider every person in the dream to represent an aspect of the dreamer, which he called the subjective approach to dreams. Perls expanded this point of view to say that even inanimate objects in the dream may represent aspects of the dreamer. The dreamer may, therefore, be asked to imagine being an object in the dream and to describe it, in order to bring into awareness the characteristics of the object that correspond with the dreamer's personality.

 

Neurological theories of dreams

 

Activation synthesis theory

In 1976 J. Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley proposed a new theory that changed dream research, challenging the previously held Freudian view of dreams as unconscious wishes to be interpreted. They assume that the same structures that induce REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep also generate sensory information. Hobson's 1976 research suggested that the signals interpreted as dreams originated in the brain stem during REM sleep. According to Hobson and other researchers, circuits in the brain stem are activated during REM sleep. Once these circuits are activated, areas of the limbic system involved in emotions, sensations, and memories become active. The brain synthesizes and interprets these activities, for example changes on the physical environment such as temperature and humidity, or physical stimuli such as ejaculation, and attempts to create meaning from these signals, which results in dreaming.

However, research by Mark Solms suggests that dreams are generated in the forebrain, and that REM sleep and dreaming are not directly related. He began to question patients about their dreams and confirmed that patients with damage to the parietal lobe stopped dreaming; this finding was in line with Hobson's 1977 theory. However, Solms did not encounter cases of loss of dreaming with patients having brain stem damage. This observation forced him to question Hobson's prevailing theory, which marked the brain stem as the source of the signals interpreted as dreams.

 

Continual-activation theory

Combining Hobson's activation synthesis hypothesis with Solms' findings, the continual-activation theory of dreaming presented by Jie Zhang proposes that dreaming is a result of brain activation and synthesis; at the same time, dreaming and REM sleep are controlled by different brain mechanisms. Zhang hypothesizes that the function of sleep is to process, encode and transfer the data from the temporary memory store to the long-term memory store.

Zhang assumes that during REM sleep the unconscious part of a brain is busy processing the procedural memory; meanwhile, the level of activation in the conscious part of the brain descends to a very low level as the inputs from the sensory are basically disconnected. This triggers the "continual-activation" mechanism to generate a data stream from the memory stores to flow through the conscious part of the brain. Zhang suggests that this pulse-like brain activation is the inducer of each dream. He proposes that, with the involvement of the brain associative thinking system, dreaming is, thereafter, self-maintained with the dreamer's own thinking until the next pulse of memory insertion. This explains why dreams have both characteristics of continuity (within a dream) and sudden changes (between two dreams).

 

Dreams as excitations of long-term memory

Eugen Tarnow suggests that dreams are ever-present excitations of long-term memory, even during waking life. The strangeness of dreams is due to the format of long-term memory, reminiscent of Penfield & Rasmussen's findings that electrical excitations of the cortex give rise to experiences similar to dreams. During waking life an executive function interprets long-term memory consistent with reality checking. Tarnow's theory is a reworking of Freud's theory of dreams in which Freud's unconscious is replaced with the long-term memory system and Freud's "Dream Work" describes the structure of long-term memory.

 

Psychological theories of dreams

 

Dreams for testing and selecting mental schemas

Coutts describes dreams as playing a central role in a two-phase sleep process that improves the mind's ability to meet human needs during wakefulness. During the accommodation phase, mental schemas self-modify by incorporating dream themes. During the emotional selection phase, dreams test prior schema accommodations. Those that appear adaptive are retained, while those that appear maladaptive are culled. The cycle maps to the sleep cycle, repeating several times during a typical night's sleep. Alfred Adler suggested that dreams are often emotional preparations for solving problems, intoxicating an individual away from common sense toward private logic. The residual dream feelings may either reinforce or inhibit contemplated action.

 

Evolutionary psychology theories of dreams

Numerous theories state that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep physiology and that it does not serve any natural purpose. Flanagan claims that "dreams are evolutionary epiphenomena" and they have no adaptive function. "Dreaming came along as a free ride on a system designed to think and to sleep. Hobson, for different reasons, also considers dreams epiphenomena. He believes that the substance of dreams have no significant influence on waking actions, and most people go about their daily lives perfectly well without remembering their dreams.

Hobson proposed the activation-synthesis theory, which states that "there is a randomness of dream imagery and the randomness synthesizes dream-generated images to fit the patterns of internally generated stimulations". This theory is based on the physiology of REM sleep, and Hobson believes dreams are the outcome of the forebrain reacting to random activity beginning at the brainstem. The activation-synthesis theory hypothesizes that the peculiar nature of dreams is attributed to certain parts of the brain trying to piece together a story out of what is essentially bizarre information.

 

Psychosomatic theory of dreams

Y.D. Tsai developed in 1995 a 3-hypothesis theory that is claimed to provide a mechanism for mind-body interaction and explain many dream-related phenomena, including hypnosis, meridians in Chinese medicine, the increase in heart rate and breathing rate during REM sleep, that babies have longer REM sleep, lucid dreams, etc.

Dreams are a product of "dissociated imagination," which is dissociated from the conscious self and draws material from sensory memory for simulation, with feedback resulting in hallucination. By simulating the sensory signals to drive the autonomous nerves, dreams can affect mind-body interaction. In the brain and spine, the autonomous "repair nerves," which can expand the blood vessels, connect with compression and pain nerves. Repair nerves are grouped into many chains called meridians in Chinese medicine. When some repair nerves are prodded by compression or pain to send out their repair signals, a chain reaction spreads out to set other repair nerves in the same meridian into action. While dreaming, the body also employs the meridians to repair the body and help it grow and develop by simulating very intensive movement-compression signals to expand the blood vessels when the level of growth enzymes increase.