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2021 AFC General Discussion

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I Dream Of You

There's no definitive evidence about what dreams consist of, but it's generally accepted that dreams represent a collection of thoughts, struggles, emotions, events, people, places and symbols that are relevant to the dreamer in some way.

I Dream Of You

There are many theories of the function of dreams, Kuras says. "They appear to assist in memory formation, integration, problem-solving and consolidation of ideas both about ourselves and the world," he says, adding that neuroscientists have discovered that dreams help with information processing and mood regulation, too.

While scientists know a great deal about what happens physiologically when people dream, there's still much to be studied about what happens psychologically. For example, researchers know that people with post-traumatic stress disorder are likely to have nightmares. But people without PTSD have nightmares, too, so it can't be said that nightmares always accompany psychological conditions.

One concept that's generally accepted is that dreaming is a highly emotional process, because the amygdala (an emotional center in your brain) is one of the areas of your brain that's most active during dreams, according to neuroimaging studies.

Part of this is biological, Kuras says, as neurotransmitters forming memory are less active during sleep, and dream forgetfulness also appears to be related to the level of electrical activity in the brain during dreams.

Additionally, it could have something to do with the content of your dreams, Kuras says: Early psychoanalytic theory suggested that difficult or traumatic information in dreams is suppressed, and the dreamer is less likely to retrieve or analyze it.

Dr. Meir Kryger, a sleep medicine doctor at Yale Medicine, tells CNET that most people remember their dreams when they're awakened in the middle of a dream, or in the first few moments after a dream has ended. But the catch is that the memory only lasts for a short time. Unless you write it down or repeat it in your head over and over, there's a good chance you'll forget the dream. It's likely that it's more common to forget dreams than it is to remember them, Kryger says.

When you wake up also matters. Research has shown that people who wake up during REM sleep report more vivid, detailed dreams, whereas people who wake up during non-REM sleep report fewer dreams, no dreams or dreams of little significance.

Different cultures throughout history have ascribed meaning and importance to dreams, though there's little scientific evidence that dreams have particular meanings attached to them, Kuras says, "No one has yet determined with exactitude what dreams or the images in dreams mean. That dreams are significant indicators of one's subconscious mind is a basic assumption in various cultures, but in different ways."

Kryger says that dreams are "mostly speculation in terms of specific meanings." Among the scientific community, he continues, there are two main trains of thought: One is that every part of a dream has a specific meaning, and the other is that dreams are entirely spontaneous and mean nothing.

The first train of thought can be attributed to Sigmund Freud, who is recognized as the first person to assign definitive meanings to dreams -- like that dreaming about a king and a queen actually means you're dreaming about your mother and father, Kryger says.

Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst, says the problem with arriving at proof across the board "is that dreams and their meanings are so very personal because they are based on the person's individual life experiences."

Additionally, neuroscience tends to focus on the function of dreaming (like memory retention) rather than the "comparative analysis between the imagery in dreams and the content of the previous day, which is how I approach dream analysis," Loewenberg says.

That said, certain dreams do have meanings attached to them, if for no reason other than holding significance for many people. Below, Kryger, Kuras and Loewenberg discuss meanings about common dreams and symbols in dreams.

"As far as these being accepted meanings, all that truly matters is what fits for the dreamer," Loewenberg says. While many symbols have a general meaning that can fit most people and common situations, you have to account for your personal associations with symbols, she explains.

Kryger says it's very common to dream about death, particularly about the death of someone close to you emotionally. It's also common to interpret those sorts of dreams as communication from the dead, which isn't really a surprise: "Death has such a great impact on the living that it is often incorporated into dream content," he says.

"To dream of your own death isn't a premonition but rather a reflection of how you are coming to realize that life as you now know it is coming to an end," she says, adding that it's not unusual to dream about death during things like moving, the process of quitting smoking or making a career change.

According to Kuras, "this all depends on what these images mean to the dreamer in the context of their life and challenges. Dream work is very much the exploration of feelings and meaning for the dreamer and is somehow related to the 'work' of managing life and its challenges."

Like the elements, there's no actual scientific proof that darkness and light have set meanings, but many dreamers associate each with a particular feeling, Loewenberg says. For example, dreams that take place in the dark can represent uncertainty in real life -- such as if you are "in the dark" about something going on and you need more information to make a decision. Darkness has also been associated with sadness or loneliness.

Dreams that take place in the daytime, on the other hand, may not mean anything for most people. But if you typically dream in dark settings and suddenly have dreams set in daytime, it could signify that an issue was resolved or that you've come out of a period of sadness.

Have you ever dreamed that you were falling and jerked awake? If you've ever discussed said dream with other people, there's a good chance someone else chimed in saying, "I've had that dream, too!" Dreaming of falling seems to be pretty common, and it's something called an archetype, Loewnberg says.

Loewenberg says these dreams are so common because they're connected to common behaviors, actions, thoughts and fears. For example, many (if not most) people worry about arriving late for something important, such as a work presentation or a plane flight. Likewise, many people may worry about their partner having an affair, which can show up in dreams.

"The determination of what dreams convey are particular to the person and current situation," Kuras says, "so what the person is experiencing, what challenges they are facing, and what psychological developments are occurring will inform meaning in each case."

Dreaming is a thinking process, Loewnberg reiterates. "Our dreams, those strange little stories we experience every night while we sleep, are actually our subconscious thoughts," she says. "They are a continuation of our stream of consciousness from the day."

It can be helpful to keep a journal by your bedside and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up, as your dreams may fade with time. You should try and write down all the details you can recall about your dreams, including the characters, the events, the sensations, and the feelings you experienced.

Coutts R. Variation in the frequency of relationship characters in the dream reports of singles: a survey of 15,657 visitors to an online dating website. Comprehensive Psychology. 2015;4:09.CP.4.22. doi:10.2466/09.CP.4.22

Research also shows that we do dream in non-REM stages of sleep, but these dreams are typically harder to remember, shorter, less intense, and more thought-like compared with dreaming in REM. In contrast, REM sleep dreams may be more story-like.

If you remember your dream, it could be that you simply woke up during it, so it's fresh in your mind, says Deborah Givan, MD, sleep specialist and professor emeritus at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

The best time to try to recall your dreams is in the first 90 seconds after you wake up, before the memory goes away. Loewenberg recommends trying to keep your body in the exact same position that you were in when you woke up, as this will help boost your dream memory.

Falling dreams can be interpreted differently by different people. Some may focus on the feelings involved while others may put focus on the dream setting. Some may think that they ought to lay off on the spicy food before bed!

Parasomnia (Hypnagogic Jerk) is a sleep disorder with symptoms of uncontrollable physical movement or verbal outbursts while sleeping. This can take the form of night terrors, where you wake suddenly with a physical jerk of your limbs as you wake up. The sudden muscle spasm is a result of dreaming of falling off a building or dreaming of taking a misstep while walking or climbing stairs. This may seem like a minor issue but parasomnia can have a great impact on your sleep health and that of your part

The very first record of lucid dreaming appears to feature in the treatise On Dreams by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. In it, he describes an instance of self-awareness during a dream state.

Like most dreams, lucid dreaming will typically occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. For some people it occurs spontaneously, but others train themselves to start dreaming lucidly (or to become better at it).

Some people may simply wake up immediately upon realizing that they had been dreaming. Other people, however, may be able to influence their own actions within the dream, or parts of the dream itself.

Lucid dreaming is certainly an attractive and fascinating prospect; being able to explore our own inner worlds with full awareness that we are in a dream is intriguing and has an almost magical flavor to it.

This is possible, he added, because dream environments can provide a realistic enough experience without it actually feeling unsafe. During lucid dreaming, an individual knows that they are not in the real world, so they may safely explore their fears without actually feeling threatened. 041b061a72


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