Falling. Being chased. Returning to school. Not being prepared for a test. Flying. Spending time with a loved one who has passed away. These are the most common themes in dreams (via Amerisleep) … but what do they mean?
Dreams are stories in our minds that occur during sleep, and every person has around three to six dreams a night, which can each last between five and 20 minutes, according to Medical News Today. While 95% of people forget their dreams quickly, there are those sleep-induced ideas that lead to greatness. “Frankenstein,” the periodic table, “Twilight,” and Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry were all inspired by dreams (via The Cut)!
You probably remember some of your own dreams, and you have probably wondered if there was a deeper meaning behind the story being told in your mind. There are several theories on what it all means, and there is a creative way to analyze it.
What do dreams mean?
When we dream about a scary fall, does it mean we are unstable in life? Are we feeling particularly overwhelmed? Do we have a sleep disorder, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder? Or is it just a random thought? These are some of the interpretations, as reported by Healthline, and there are other theories on the topic.
John Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley are psychiatrists from Harvard University who believe in the Activation-Synthesis theory, per Verywell mind. In short, this means that they think dreams don’t mean much of anything! Instead, they explain this process as random memories being pulled by electrical brain impulses. Sigmund Freud, on the other hand, thought dreams represented conflicts or wishes that had been repressed.
There is also the Threat Simulation Theory (via ScienceDirect), stating that dreams are a type of defense mechanism. With this idea, we can face our fears safely, in a made-up sort of way and while we doze in our comfortable and familiar bed.
What is dream journaling?
In order to interpret dreams in a better way, many people keep a dream journal, and there are actually several benefits to this practice. A dream journal is exactly what it sounds like: a record of your dreams, which is updated regularly. This can be written down in a locked diary, jotted down in the note section of a phone, or recorded by voice.
The point is to document as much as you remember and then to use these details to process information, deal with unresolved thoughts, improve your sleep patterns and health, gain insight into what’s really happening in your mind, aid the creative process, and beyond.
As stated by DreamCloud, dreams are a “gateway into your subconscious mind,” and journaling can assist you in taking a deep dive, revealing that a dream about being chased was perhaps about more than just being chased in your imagination.
What are the benefits of keeping a record of your dreams?
Now that you know some of the psychology behind dreaming and the definition of dream journaling, you can learn about the reasons to keep a record of these sleepy stories. As Psychology Today states, reviewing the patterns of dreams can explain the patterns of sleep. You may start to pick up on factors, like what led to a certain type of dream or when dreams on certain topics most occurred. This info can then aid in getting rid of things that disrupt sleep and increasing those that improve it.
Journaling about dreams can also be beneficial to your emotional and mental well-being. If you are dealing with or have coped with fear, anxiety, or confusion, try studying your dreams, as this may tell you how you are now dealing with these issues. Psychology Today points out, as well, that this practice can fill you with hope, as you learn about new possibilities and gain a sense of being recharged.
Why should a person write down and study their dreams?
Leslie Ellis, Ph.D., a therapist and dream expert, discussed some more pros of keeping a dream journal with mindbodygreen, and she described it as a “tangible way to interact with, and reflect on, our nightly adventures in the dream world.”
At first, it may feel kind of silly to write down the random fragments that you remember, and when looking back at the record, it may seem to amount to gibberish. Don’t give up, though! This is going to take some patience, time, and critical thinking, but it will pay off. “The more we pay attention to our dreams, the more we recall them — and the more helpful they are,” Ellis said.
Ellis also stated that “dreams have been described as picture-metaphors for your most salient emotions” — so our dreams can portray what we are really feeling and thinking. That being said, a review of a dream is a review of emotions, and it is healthy to have a clear picture of thoughts and feelings.
How do you keep a dream journal?
We have covered what types of dreams people have, what they could possibly mean, and what dream journaling is all about. Now, here are some helpful tips on getting started with this fun and beneficial process! There is no right or wrong way to keep a journal. Therefore, think about the type of journal that will work best for you, such as a spiral notebook, a Google document, or a tape recorder. After deciding on a medium, place it next to your bed. Sleep.com suggests writing down dreams right away, since we can quickly and easily start to lose what we remember from our sleep.
The website also recommends going over your intentions before getting any shut-eye. Remind yourself that you want to have dreams and that you want to remember as much of them as possible!
Journaling about dreams can be cathartic and could even lead to a deeper dive into the subconscious, such as lucid dreaming. “There are many specific things you can learn and discover and benefit from by keeping a dream journal,” says Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., the director of the Sleep and Dream Database and a psychologist specializing in dream research. “But I think the greatest value in some ways is just an ongoing dialogue with your unconscious self.”
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