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The Benefits of Dreaming

Mizuki Giffin, Healthy Living Writer

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There are very few major puzzles left about human processes about which scientists are still clueless. We understand how the bulk of our biology works, down to the molecular makeup of human cells which are the building blocks to life. Yet, there is one significant aspect of human behavior that continues to perplex even the top academics in our society: dreaming. It seems weird that we spend approximately 25 years of our lives in an unconscious state, and during these periods of time, our brain experiences vivid and oftentimes illogical hallucinations. There are many theories about the biological and cognitive benefits of sleep. Some scientists argue that dreams are the byproduct of our brains organizing and interpreting new information, others believe that they are used to prepare us for potential experiences in the future. A popular theory, proposed by Sigmund Freud, is that dreams are a gateway into our unconscious feelings and desires. No matter how they are explained, it’s clear that professionals from all perspectives agree that dreaming provides benefits to our overall health.

From a biological perspective, dreams occur as newly obtained information is processed through our brains. As thoughts travel across the corpus callosum, a structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain, random bits of information are received. In an effort to make sense of these random and fleeting thoughts, our brain strings together a story that incorporates all the information it is receiving. This explains the nonsensical nature of our dreams. This mosaic of unrelated thoughts, emotions, and feelings are believed to serve a deeper purpose beyond simply being a fluke of our unconscious minds as well. Evolutionary psychologists believe that dreams exist to prepare us for potential threats in the future. In their minds, this is why we often dream about fearful experiences such as free-falling, being attacked, and being humiliated or betrayed by our peers. Essentially, they are a simulation of ways we may die in preparation for our inevitable endings. The psychoanalytic perspective (commonly known as the Freudian perspective) believes dreams to be demonstrations of unconsciousness. They believe that dreams provide a non-threatening and healthy way to explore our innermost desires and curiosities without being judged. Freudian psychologists often analyze their client’s dreams to help understand the hidden thoughts that may be driving their behaviors and attitudes. There are many other theories about the benefits of dreams as well. It has been argued that dreaming improves memory by encoding new information, or that it is the result of the brain sifting through and letting go of unneeded memories.

Whether looking at the benefits of dreaming from a biological, evolutionary, psychoanalytic, or other perspective, it’s clear that it serves a deeper purpose beyond simply being an entertaining topic of conversation the next morning. Some even use dreaming as a therapy by making difficult decisions and facing anxiety-arousing circumstances while in a semi-conscious state called lucid dreaming. Whether they help explain the unexplainable, prepare us for potentially dangerous circumstances, or provide us with an outlet to explore our unconscious minds, dreaming clearly plays in a vital role in our cognitive health. As science evolves and more of our questions are answers, the exact role of dreams may be unveiled. No matter what the definite purpose turns out to be, it is inarguable that dreaming is crucial to our overall health and wellbeing.

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The Benefits of Dreaming