The Science of Dreams

The Science of Dreams

Our Creator made us to sleep and to dream. Even though some people claim they do not dream, science indicates that we all dream approximately three to five dreams per night, up to seven in some cases, with a full night's sleep.

Sleep cycles play a role in our dreams. Some theories call the early stages of sleep a dreamless sleep; others say it is a light sleep with a few minutes of dreaming. Dreams are not usually memorable or vivid until you get into this stage. The longer you sleep, the more time you have in REM sleep because the length of time spent dreaming in REM increases gradually throughout the night, with the longest REM sleep occurring just before you wake up.

In an early sleep study by the University of Chicago's Sleep Research Laboratory, when subjects were awakened during REM sleep, twenty of twenty-seven people (74 percent) recalled vivid dreams. When awakened in NREM sleep, only four of twenty-three people (17 percent) recalled having a dream.

If you wake up while in REM, you can jot down the main points of your dream and go right back into REM sleep. Some people set an alarm every 90 to 120 minutes to capture their dreams while in REM sleep. (Personally, I value my sleep too much to purposefully interrupt it.)

If you sleep all the way through the night, you may only remember your last dream. However, I know people who recall multiple dreams each night. For myself, I may recall two or three dreams per night. So how do I do this? When I exit REM and return back to the beginning stages of sleep, I am able to regain consciousness long enough to recall the dream before slipping into deeper sleep.

Your best dreaming time is right before you awaken in the morning, because the last stage of REM sleep may last up to sixty minutes and provide long periods of uninterrupted dreaming. This may help us to understand why some dreamers have long, epic dreams, and sometimes feel like they dreamed a particular dream all night. The important thing to remember is that nothing God gives is wasted. A dream lasting only a minute could give you the answer you have been praying for.

Anyone who has ever been able to recall a dream knows how illogical they can be. The frontal cortex of the brain is where logic and reasoning are processed. During sleep, there is decreased brain activity in this region, causing the possible and impossible to fuse in dreams. When our dreams are illogical or we are performing impossible acts (i.e., flying or breathing underwater), this physiological phenomenon allows the dreamer to continue without waking up to question the logic.

A special kind of dreaming, called lucid dreaming, occurs in a small number of people. During lucid dreaming, you become aware that you are dreaming without waking from the dream. You may (but not always) consciously interact with the dream or have some control over your actions in it. In one of my lucid dreams, I was watching my dream take place while standing to the side interpreting it as it was happening. When I realized that I needed to stop and let the dream finish, I could no longer see myself.

Lucid dreaming is a hybrid-like state of sleep with features of both REM sleep (delta and theta brain waves) and waking (gamma brain waves). In order to move from non-lucid REM sleep dreaming to lucid REM sleep dreaming, the brain activity shifts toward waking. As a result, the frontal regions of the brain become more active and thus promote lucid insight into the dream state and control of your actions.

One of the benefits of lucid dreaming is that dreamers can overcome fears in their dreams. Rather than allowing an attack, they are able to stand up to it and overcome it while in the dream state.