Dreams: what are they and how to explain them? What does their absence mean?

Daydreaming is a fascinating part of our human existence. What do we know about them today? We explain what daydreams are, how long they last, and how they can be interpreted. We also provide examples of common dreams and answer the question of what the absence of dreams indicates.

Photo by Karyme França: https://www.pexels.com/photo/dream-text-on-green-leaves-1535907/

Dreams have fascinated us for a long time. For centuries they have been attributed a prophetic meaning, and also associated with the possibility of contact with the afterlife. The problem of dreams has dealt with many scientists from various fields, especially psychology, neurology and psychiatry. We have collected for you everything that is worth knowing about this phenomenon!

What are daydreams?

Daydreams are sensory impressions that occur during sleep that largely resemble hallucinations. They take the form of emotions, sounds, smells, touch, as well as erotic sensations. They can be both realistic and completely unrealistic, chaotic and lacking logical connections. Often they relate to everyday situations and problems that the dreaming person faces in his or her daily life.

When do daydreams occur? The brain produces daydreams especially during a phase of sleep called REM, which is also known as “paradoxical sleep”. What is the REM phase? This phase is characterized by the occurrence of high brain activity, similar to when we are awake. During REM sleep, a sleeping person may notice:

  • rapid eye movements,
  • rapid acceleration of the heart rate,
  • rapid and irregular breathing.

REM sleep usually begins about 1.5 hours after falling asleep. The brain produces it in an area called the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and emotional processes. Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter released into the brain during the REM phase, is involved in dream formation. Man dreams already in the prenatal period. Dreams then usually concern sensory impressions. A dream may occur many times during one night — usually we have about 5 dreams. However, we remember only those dreams that occur moments before waking up, even partially. The other dreams are blurred.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photography-of-woman-sleeping-914910/

How long does a dream last?

A dream may occur during the REM phase, the total time of which is usually about 15 minutes. However, this does not mean that the dream lasts for this entire period. It turns out that a single episode usually ends after just a few seconds. It’s hard to believe, because sometimes we think we’ve been having nightmares all night and wake up in the morning terrified and drenched in sweat. In reality, however, the sense of the passage of time during a dream is quite different from that of reality, hence this kind of misleading impression is created.

Dream Interpretation

Dream interpretation is nothing new. People have been trying to find the hidden meaning of dreams for centuries. Even in the Old Testament, dreams were assigned an important role. Biblical characters during the dream appeared to be an angel sent by God, who warned them of the danger or showed the right solutions. Dreams also had a prophetic meaning, when they foretold to the people the coming years full of abundance or hunger and deprivation.

Famous psychoanalysts of the 20th century, such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung and Erich Fromm, also dealt with the interpretation of dreams. According to Freud, during sleep a person presents his inner conflicts and unconscious desires, especially those of a sexual nature. The founder of psychoanalysis argued that during the day we push them out of our consciousness. Thus, dream analysis was to serve as one of the psychoanalytic techniques to deal with neurotic states in patients.

Jungian dream psychology, on the other hand, puts emphasis on universal symbols and motifs that appear to man during sleep. According to Jung, by analyzing dreams a person can better understand himself, his desires, dreams, fears and other emotions.

Erich Fromm devoted a book to the subject of dreams. Erich Fromm dedicated his book “The Forgotten Language. Introduction to the understanding of dreams, fairy tales and myths”. He developed the Jungian concept, presenting a humanistic explanation of particular symbols based on his own therapeutic practice. Fromm assumed that the symbols of dreams are universal, regardless of the sex, age or culture in which the dreaming person lives. In his opinion, by observing one’s own dreams, a person can learn about the motives of his or her own actions, better understand his or her own emotions, and read the true intentions of other people.

All the mentioned psychoanalysts assumed that dreams show the unconscious sphere of the human psyche and have a direct connection with his daily life. They believed that dreams are not something random or chaotic, but each of them has a hidden meaning. Its discovery would allow to get rid of internal conflicts and fears, and thus regain mental health. Many contemporary neurologists present a different opinion. Observing the brain, they come to the conclusion that dreams are only a random reflection of different types of stimuli, to which we are subjected during the day, and also during sleep. Dream impressions may therefore arise, for example, as a mistaken interpretation of the noise heard during sleep from outside the window. According to the same scientists, sleep helps to organize thoughts, serving the purpose of remembering, as well as removing from memory insignificant or difficult experiences.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli: https://www.pexels.com/photo/girl-and-dog-sleeping-on-gray-pavement-573258/

Popular daydreams

Daydreams are similar in many people. Commonly recurring symbols and themes include:

  • floating in the air and flying,
  • teeth falling out,
  • running away from someone,
  • missing a train,
  • betrayal,
  • slicing bread,
  • death of a loved one,
  • car accident,
  • mice,
  • snake,
  • kiss,
  • sexual intercourse,
  • fire,
  • flood.

What does the absence of daydreaming indicate?

The absence of daydreaming is a very rare situation. It can occur in people who have suffered irreversible damage to the areas of the brain that are responsible for the formation of sleep in the REM phase. However, a large number of people are under the impression that they are not dreaming. In reality, however, they simply do not remember their dream. This happens when we wake up in the slow-wave NREM sleep phase. The dream is then blurred and we are unable to remember it. Our ability to remember dreams may also depend on differences in brain activity, as well as personality and temperament. People who use alarm clocks are also more likely to remember their dreams. And people who suffer from sleep apnea.

Photo by Ivan Oboleninov : https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-sleeping-935777/

Of course, the remembered dream gives us the opportunity to interpret it, reaching for the online dictionary, or in the traditional form, or simply relating it to our own life and wondering why we dreamed something like this, especially if the dream referred to our daily life, work relationship, etc.

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