Why Do We Dream?

By: Stephanie Osuba

Dreams are one of the phenomena of the human experience in that we are still not sure why they happen. One proposed explanation is that is how the brain is able to process all the emotions, information, and memories that happened throughout the day; day-residue. In fact, there are numerous researches that indicate that most of our dream content is heavily influenced by our conscious state. Most of the characters in dreams are recognizable by name and autobiographical memories such as dreaming of pregnancy and birth while pregnant are just a few examples. However, this doesn’t always immediately happen. Sometimes there is a dream lag where something that happened a week prior comes up in a dream. This could be an important aspect of memory consolidation.

Dreams also allow us to confront things that are beyond our capability when awake. Cases in which people that are born paralyzed dream of running and swimming, deaf people reporting hearing, and other phenomena further prove that dreams can be a sort of virtual reality that promotes survival and growth. Dreaming can also be an outlet in which people who have experienced trauma and grief can come to terms with and process their emotions. These experiences are often replayed in dreams and manifest in a number of different ways (e.g. nightmares with PTSD and receiving messages from a dead family member with the bereaved).

Some common dream subjects include:

  • School (studying or test taking)
  • Flying
  • Falling
  • Being chased
  • Sexual fantasies
  • Being late
  • Dreaming of someone dead being alive and vice versa
  • Being physically attacked

Source: Breus, M. J., Ph.D. (n.d.). Why We Dream What We Dream. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201501/why-we-dream-what-we-dream 

If you or someone you know needs help regarding sleep and dreams, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

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