Dreams, are one of the most understood abilities we all hold, has left neuroscientist’s and others alike, scratching their heads trying to grasp an idea of why this occurs, several times a night, during a normal sleep-cycle. Sigmund Freud theorized that dreams mainly express aggressive impulses, infantile sexuality, and an expression of repressed wishes. Some other psychoanalysis believed that dreams had more to do with feelings of inadequacy, or filling a compensational gap within. In more recent times, psychologists point more towards dreams help with memory consolidation and or threat stimulation. These leading theories account for some types of dreams, but clearly don’t define for all.
During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is when dreams occur, during which the brain is as active as when we are in our awaken state. Studies done in the 1990s suggested that sleep after learning something new can help better recall it, more easily than spending the same amount of time pondering it awake. Recently, studies done of rats learning to navigate mazes during REM sleep, brain activity mimics that of the awake animal training within the maze, determining that circuits may be reinforced during REM sleep. In homosapeins, as well, research quantifies the roll of REM sleep with memory.
It’s a mind bending thought on why and what dreams actually signify, especially when they become lucid. Approximately eight out of 10 people have had a lucid dream, in which they were consciously aware of it, at least once in their lifetime. Lucid dreaming is great for conquering nightmares and possibly even anxiety. Parts of the brain tend to work together more fiercely during lucid dreaming than in any other dream phase.
There’s ways we can help control our dreams to help work out problems in our day-to-day lives. People have been able to work out these problems whether it be work related or within their own well-being, through a process known as ‘dream incubation.’ It’s a fantastic way to learn to train your dreams. And here’s how one can achieve this:
- Jot down in a sentence or phrase, a problem you’re having and place it next to your bed. Keep a pen and paper at your side as well.
- Review the problem a few minutes before bed.
- In bed, If possible, visualize the problem in images.
- Over and over, tell yourself you want to dream about the problem as you fall asleep.
- Upon waking up, quietly lay there before getting out of bed. Record any trace of the dream and invite more of it to come to. Write it down.
- At bedtime, picture yourself dreaming about the problem, when awake write it down on your bedside notepad or “dream journal.”
- Put objects out connected to the problem on your night table or on a wall across from the bed.
Here are five cases in which people turned their dreams into their reality:
1. Friedrich August Kekule
This German chemist pulled out the Benzene molecule out of a two different dreams he’s had. In 1865, he seen atoms dance around and link to each other. When he awoke, he immediately began to sketch what he saw within his dream.
Soon-after, Friedrich had yet another dream, in which he saw atoms waltz around, then form themselves into string like objects, moving about in a snake-like fashion. This vision continued until the snake of atoms formed itself into a picture of a snake eating its own tail. This dream gave Kekulé the vision of the periodic structure of benzene.
2. Dmitri Mendeleev
The Russian chemist and inventor, Mendeleev, dreamed a vision in 1869, of the basic elements of the universe flowing in sequence in a manner analogous to the progression of a musical arrangement; structured orderly and beautiful. Upon waking up he then outlined from his dream every element in order. This sequence became known in all chemistry texts that almost everyone recognizes the Periodic Table of Elements.
3. Otto Loewi
In 1921, Loewi devised an experiment, which came to him in several dreams. On the night of Easter Sunday, he suddenly awoke and wrote a few notes on a piece of scrap paper. To his dismay, the next morning he could not decipher it. After finally being able to fall asleep the next night, he again dreamt of a recurrent experiment. Again, awoke from his dream, but this time he trusted his writing. He immediately went to his laboratory and conducted the experiment that had come to him in his dream, which he finished by the end of Easter Monday. He discovered the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, later winning him a Nobel Prize.
4. Mary Shelly
Shelley was an English novelist, started writing a story when she was only 18, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published in London in 1818. She would find herself in a dream, figuring out the two main scenes in the book that we know as Frankenstein.
5. Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi was the leader of Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. One night in a dream he had, he would be called to lead a nonviolent protest. And so he led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Unfortunately, he would never receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
Sources: Scientific American Mind Magazine (winter 2014 Edition)