What Causes Dreams?

What causes dreams? Dream expert Craig Webb discusses the function of dreaming. Dreams serve a purpose. They serve a specific function for our bodies and mind. While many dream analysts at the turn of the...

Dreams serve a purpose. They serve a specific function for our bodies and mind. While many dream analysts at the turn of the century focused on dream interpretations, dream experts of today focus on the scientific approach of what causes dreams. Dream Analyst and author Craig Webb says before we can look at what causes dreams, we must understand what dreams are to begin with.

"Usually we define a dream as an experience remembered upon awakening that comes through nonphysical channels. Basically, it is an altered experience we have when we are sleeping and that we remember when we wake. However, there are lots of other variations on the definition. Some people define dreams as life goals and wishes for the future. This is another way we use the word. There is actually a pretty direct link between the two because often we dream of great wishes and future hopes in our sleep.

"Dreaming is a natural function of every mammal on earth. Dogs show the same physiological cycles that humans show, REM, so we assume that they are having the same type of dream," Webb says.

Dreams can be a pleasurable experience for many. In other cases, dreams can take on a horrifying manifestation in the mind. Whether you have a bad or good dream, both cause the body to recycle itself in a way.

"There are several functions to dreaming. One is to give balance to the events that happen during the day. Studies have shown that if we interrupt dreaming for humans, they go crazy and psychotic and start seeing hallucinations and all kinds of strange things - even if they get the rest of their sleep. In other words, it's really a vital process. It has actually been scientifically proven in sleep lab research that dreaming increases learning or retention of new knowledge. Obviously, the more we sleep and dream, the more we integrate things that we have learned during the day. That's another valuable function," Webb says.

So as our bodies repair themselves in dreams, other health benefits arise. Our dreams also function to improve the quality of our life.

"Dreaming also provides mental, spiritual, and emotional coping mechanisms that help us develop creative solutions and new ways of thinking about our challenges, questions, and problems in life," Webb says.

Understanding what causes dreams and their importance is necessary in order for doctors to educate the public about prioritizing sleep in their life. According to Webb, the average adult functions best with seven to eight hours of sleep a night. However, children and infants need a lot more. Infants need about 16 hours of dreamtime.

You can always tell if you haven't slept enough. Signs of lack of sleep are being irritable, having mood swings, and falling asleep as you're driving home from work. If you've ever experienced any of these, it's your body's way of telling you to turn off the light switch and start dreaming.

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