There’s a man chasing me through the woods. I hear him gaining on me with every step I take and then suddenly I can hear no more. The footsteps are gone and it appears he is too. I decide to take a moment to catch my breath before carrying on. Except, wait where am I going? Where am I now? I’m in a dream. Suddenly, the man is directly in front of me and just before he grabs me I urge myself awake. I’m breathing heavily and have sweat dripping off my face.
The next morning, I spend an hour or so researching what this dream could mean. After reading a variety of possibilities, I settle on the explanation that I’m running away from something that scares me in life. Maybe I’m scared of quitting my job and pursuing my true passion? Or maybe it’s a direct reflection of my fear of relationships? That must be it.
The Truth About Dreams
People have always had a deep fascination with dreams and the meanings behind them. Some believe that dreams can tell the future, while others believe they’re reflections of our troubles and fears. We spend hours sorting through different possibilities, trying to make sense of the nightmare that jerked us awake or the recurring dream we’ve had for the last month. But as it turns out, the function of dreams is much simpler and less mysterious than these beliefs.
Dreams are the brain’s way of cleaning out the current day’s events and preparing for the next. The reason they seem so real and meaningful is because they are representational of our actual world—they are written from our consciousness. In order for our consciousness to be ready for the next day, recent conflicts need to be dealt with. Still, these conflicts are not completely representative of our awake selves and are not designed to reveal any information about our awake selves. They can, however, urge someone to deal with an unresolved issue by bringing attention to it.
Facts and Fictions
What other misconceptions do we have about dreams? And is there any truth to popular beliefs?
- We experience heightened brain activity while we sleep, resulting a lot of the time in dreams.
- The faces we see in our dreams most likely belong to people we know or have seen before.
- Animals also have dreams, as they also experience heightened brain activity during sleep.
- Most people forget 90-95% of their dreams, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
- Dreams recharge our creativity, while sleep recharges our bodies.
- If we don’t remember any dreams, then we didn’t have any.
- Dreams can only last a split second.
- Our dreams have no relation to our real lives.
- We can’t die in our dreams.
- Dreams only occur in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Common Dreams Explained
There seem to be some common dreams out there that we all have at some point or another in our lives. That means many people have spent a lot of time trying to uncover or explain what these dreams could mean. The following are commonly reported dreams and descriptions of their purpose:
- Falling. Dreams of falling are some of the most commonly reported dreams. Some believe it symbolizes a major problem either with work, a relationship, or something else.
- Being naked in public. Many agree that this dream represents anxiety or vulnerability. This may occur in individuals who recently made a life change, like moving to a new town for a job promotion.
- Being chased. Some say this dream could mean it’s time to face a problem that has been bothering the individual for some time.
- Being pregnant. This is also a commonly reported dream and is said to represent a problem. Some also believe it might be representative of a new project or idea the person has.
- Flying. If you have a dream about flying, it might be a sign that it’s time to let go and can be representative of a stressful, out-of-control situation in your real life.
- Being late. Many report having dreams about showing up late to an important event. It is said to symbolize that the individual has too much on his or her plate and needs to reevaluate his or her situation.
While some of these explanations seem to make a lot of sense, science says that dreams are simply our brains clearing out our heads. We’re all human. We experience the same emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear. And our lives are made up of the same building blocks, that is family, friends, love, and work. It makes sense that we would have the same or similar dreams, as we are exposed to much of the same stimuli. Our consciousness’s are one in the same.