The contents and biological purposes of dreams are not fully understood, though they have been a topic of speculation and interest throughout recorded history. The scientific study of dreams is known as oneirology.
What are Dreams?
There is no universally agreed biological definition of dreaming. General observation shows that dreams are strongly associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, during which an electroencephalogram (ECG) shows brain activity to be most like wakefulness. It is unknown where in the brain dreams originate, if there is a single origin for dreams or if multiple portions of the brain are involved, or what the purpose of dreaming is for the body or mind.
Types of Dream
- Lucid dreaming is the conscious perception of one’s state while dreaming. In this state a person usually has control over characters and the environment of the dream as well as the dreamer’s own actions within the dream.
- Dreams of absent-minded transgression (DAMT) are dreams wherein the dreamer absentmindedly performs an action that he or she has been trying to stop (one classic example is of a quitting smoker having dreams of lighting a cigarette).
- Dreams can link to actual sensations, such as the incorporation of environmental sounds into dreams such as hearing a phone ringing in a dream while it is ringing in reality. Similar to lucid dreaming people dream without being aware that they are doing so.
- One theory of déjà vu attributes the feeling of having previously seen or experienced something to having dreamt about a similar situation or place, and forgetting about it until one seems to be mysteriously reminded of the situation or place while awake.
A daydream is a visionary fantasy experienced while awake, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions.
The recall of dreams is extremely unreliable, though it is a skill that can be trained. Dreams can usually be recalled if a person is awakened while dreaming. Women tend to have more frequent dream recall than men.
Dreams that are difficult to recall may be characterized by relatively little affect, and factors such as salience, arousal, and interference play a role in dream recall. A dream diary can be used to assist dream recall, for psychotherapy or entertainment purposes. Ingesting large amounts of magnesium from dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts or fish, can help to make dreams more vivid, and therefore easier to recall.
Dream interpretation is the process of assigning meaning to dreams. In many of the ancient societies, including Egypt and Greece, dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention, whose message could be unravelled by those with certain powers.
Native American tribes used vision quests as a rite of passage, fasting and praying until an anticipated guiding dream was received, to be shared with the rest of the tribe upon their return.
In modern times, various schools of psychology have offered theories about the meaning of dreams.