As Prospero, in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, said: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” We all dream, even if sometimes we don’t remember the dreams when we wake up.
What are dreams?
Dreams are basically hallucinations that occur during certain stages of sleep. We dream throughout the night, but these dreams tend to be strongest during REM sleep, which is important for healthy brain development, memory about newly learned tasks and emotional processing. This is therefore an essential part of our nightly sleep cycles as well as our deep sleep. Good sleep cycles are essential for our wellbeing and ensures we feel rested when waking up in the morning.
Why do our dreams often make no sense?
When you’re asleep your dreams can often make little or no sense. It is thought that this is because the emotional centres of your brain trigger your dreams, rather than your analytical or logical areas of your brain. Although hard to prove, dreams are often autobiographical thoughts based on your recent activities, conversations, or other issues in your life. There are also some popular theories on the role of dreams, and although researchers still don’t entirely agree on their purpose, there are some widely held theories as mentioned below.
Dreams and emotional dramas
Your dreams may be a way of confronting emotional dramas in your life – because your brain is operating at a more emotional level than when you are awake. When you are asleep, you brain may make connections about your feelings that your conscious self wouldn’t make.
Dreams as fight-or-flight training
The amygdala, the part of the brain associated with the survival instinct, is an area of the brain that is very active during dreaming. One theory is that is your brain’s way of getting you ready to deal with a threat. We don’t try to run whilst we are asleep because our brainstem sends out signals during REM that relaxes our muscles.
Dreams help creativity
One theory is that dreams help our creative tendencies. Artists throughout the ages have said that dreams have inspired their most creative work. You might have woken up at times in your life with a great idea too!
Dreams can help you store memories
One widely held theory is that dreams help store your memories about people and events, get rid of unimportant memories and sort through complicated thoughts and feelings. Research has shown that sleep helps to store new memories about information you have learned so that you’ll be able to recall it better. Another theory is that dreams help the brain more efficiently store these memories, whilst blocking out stimuli that could interfere with memory and learning.
What influences dreams?
Some factors that affect us when we are awake can also influence our dreams, including our health. Lack of sleep, depression, anxiety and other mood disorders can trigger more intense – sometimes disturbing – dreams. Pregnancy, with its increased hormone production, can lead to intense dreams. Foods that can impact your waking hours can also impact on your sleep patterns and dreams, such as high-carb foods (with the resultant sugar crash). Food and drink that causes you to wake up throughout the night (such as spicy food, alcohol and caffeine) may result in disruption to your REM sleep cycles.
Can your choice of bedding make an impact?
Finally… getting a restful sleep with good sleep cycles can be helped by sleeping with bedding that is breathable. To achieve this, always opt for natural bedding, especially that made with wool, which can help to keep your core body temperature balanced throughout the night – and is also anti-allergy. Our individually handcrafted wool duvets are made in Devon, using authentic traceable 100% British wool, certified by the British Wool organisation. The wool encased in luxurious 100% cotton casings, made with fabric certified by Better Cotton. For more information about our natural and sustainable bedding products, call 01752 345399 or contact us via email.