Dreams: what are they and what do they mean? (2023)

Imagine that. You are enjoying a deep and restful sleep when you suddenly wake up with a start. However, it is not because of outside noise, but because of a vivid dream.

advertising policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertisements on our website help support our mission. We do not endorse any non-Cleveland Clinic products or services.Policy

This is not necessarily unusual. But you may wonder why your dreams are so realistic. And what does it mean when you dream of someone? What does it mean to dream of falling? What about recurring dreams?

Psychologists like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung developed theories to explain the meaning of dreams. "Freud believed that dreams were repressed content, ideas or motivations," says the expert in behavioral sleep medicine.Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM. “Jung's theory comes from Freud's ideas and has the idea of ​​the collective unconscious. It's something you carry from your ancestors."

But from a medical point of view, the interpretation of dreams remains a mystery. "There really is no coherent, scientifically validated theory linking specific content to the meaning of a dream," Dr. Drerup notes.

What are dreams?

The dreams themselves are a little less mysterious. "Dreams are images or actions that occur during sleep," explains Dr. Drerup. You can dream in any stage of sleep, but the most vivid dreams usually occur in rapid eye movement sleep orsleep in REM phase. This is the period of sleep when your brain is highly active, your eyes dart behind your closed eyes, and you have a temporary loss of muscle tone.

"In REM sleep, we have less autonomic stability," says Dr. Drerup. “Our heart rate increases. We don't have the kind of steady, steady breathing that we have in other stages of non-REM sleep."

(Video) What are dreams? What do they mean and how do dreams affect us? - Rabbi Alon Anava

Scientists have a hard time analyzing dreams because we often don't remember them. "Even if you have a sleep study, it's not like we can look inside your brain and see what's going on while you sleep," Dr. Drerup says. "That's one of the reasons they remain mysterious: they're hard to study."

Why do we dream?

Doctors have several working theories about this.why do we dream. First, Dr. Drerup says that you, too, have a tendency to dream.furtherin REM sleep. Also, dreaming at this stage is associated with "memory consolidation," he adds.

“Dreams may represent important cognitive functions. The brain activity that occurs during sleep is similar to the memory processing brain activity we experience when we are awake."

When you experience more stress or anxiety, you tend to daydream more frequently. HetypesYour dreams also change. Drerup says that nightmares or stressful dreams—for example, being chased or being in a scary situation—are also common when you're stressed. "It's one of the theories about why we dream," he says. "Our dreams can help us process and manage our emotions."

Interestingly, Dr. Drerup notes that scientists have discovered that people living in certain places can have similar night visions, although they're not entirely sure why. "Dreams seem to have some cultural influence," he explains. "For example, the same type of dreams may be more common in Germany."

What do dreams mean?

Determining what dreams mean is a big question that doctors, researchers, and scientists are still trying to answer. But Dr. Drerup emphasizes that dream interpretation is subjective. “That's what I always tell people: its meaning.Tyattributed to this dream will be much more significant than anything elseIto sleep," he says. "Because it's probably something in your life that's represented in this dream."

As an example, Dr. Drerup points out that you may have the same dream as someone else, but yours will be more representative of what you personally experience. "For example, if someone recently lost their job, a dream about not being able to find their shoes can mean something completely different to someone who is recently divorced."

Dreaming that you are pregnant, that is, starting a new life, is also subjective. This can happen when she is trying to get pregnant or if she was pregnant and had a miscarriage. Or maybe not. “It is so much more than what this dream means to you. Your pregnancy dream may be something else: "Start a new career." In a way, a new life. A dream can mean many different things."

Although the experiences you have in a dream may be based on real events, this does not mean that your dreams are always realistic. "A person can enter a dream or a situation or place that he or she would not normally be in," Dr. Drerup notes. "Which means; your guest is as good as mine.

advertising policy

(Video) Comparison: Dreams and What They Mean

However, sometimes even the strangest dreams have a logical explanation. Dreams about tooth loss can occur because you grind your teeth while you sleep, this condition is calledbruxism. "This dream is more of a sign of mental stress," says Dr. Drerup.

What causes nightmares?

Nightmares can be frightening and have long-lasting effects, even when you're awake. "With nightmares, especially recurring ones, you feel like you're acting out a story," says Dr. Drerup. "People often say it's like the same movie."

Talking about a nightmare as if you were watching a movie can have unexpected consequences. "If you have a nightmare, you're going to tell everything because it was so weird, right?" works of Dr. Drerup. “But repeating this nightmare over and over again means your neural pathways get stronger. It's like developing a memory of that nightmare. Then the dream is more likely to repeat itself.

Dr. Drerup says that nightmares are often associated with other situations and events, including:

post traumatic stress disorder

For someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), nightmares are often part of reliving the trauma.


Being too complacent can make nightmares worse.


High stress levels can cause more dreams and nightmares. According to Dr. Drerup, this is likely because stress causes an acceleration of the emotional processing that takes place during sleep.

Mental disorders

Dr. Drerup says that mental disorders like depression and anxiety are more often associated with nightmares.

drug dispatcher

Stopping certain medications can also cause more nightmares. "Antidepressants suppress REM sleep and reduce the amount of REM sleep," explains Dr. Drerup. "When you stop the antidepressant, you tend to go back to REM."

(Video) What do dreams mean? | Andrew Huberman and Lex Fridman

In other words, you experience more REM sleep, which makes you more likely to spend your time where sleep occurs. "People often have more dreams or nightmares when taking antidepressants," she adds.

Treatment of sleep apnea without treatment

People receiving help for the untreatedSleep apneathey often have "high levels of dream recall and possibly nightmares as well," says Dr. Drerup. "If you have sleep apnea, you have fragmented, interrupted sleep." Better sleep quality means you enter REM sleep and stay there "instead of those brief awakenings that keep you out of REM sleep," he notes. "You'll also have the REM bounce."

Can sleep disorders affect dreams?

Sleep disorders can affect all aspects of sleep, including dreams.

nightmare disorder

For some people, nightmares are more than a temporary fear. They havesleep disordercalled nightmare disorder.

"With nightmare disorder, you have these really disturbing nightmares that keep coming back," says Dr. Drerup. "They happen often. They wake you from sleep. You can't sleep later. When you wake up, you panic and need some time to reorient yourself.

advertising policy

This disorder can be debilitating as you often feel very tired during the day. But Drerup says it's possible to treat nightmares using what's known asimaging rehearsal therapy.

“This treatment really worksimportant researchbehind it,” says Dr. Drerup. "You work with your therapist to rewrite the nightmare so that it has less disturbing content, and then you practice new dream imagery throughout the day."

"This is likeguided visualizationthis new content to make sleep less disturbing”, he continues. "The images you practice can replace or reduce the frequency of this destructive nightmare or eliminate it entirely."

(Video) Comparison: Dreams And What They Mean (Part 2)

REM sleep behavior disorder

A sleep disorder called REM sleep behavior disorder can also cause abnormal dreams. "During REM sleep, your muscles are usually paralyzed, so you don't dream," says Dr. Drerup. "From an evolutionary standpoint, it was because we were more protected because we couldn't move in our sleep."

However, people living with REM sleep behavior disorder are not actually paralyzed, which means they can move around while they sleep. Dr. Drerup says this isn't always a problem, but it can be in some cases.

"Often it's not that upsetting for you, unless you hit someone in your sleep and then hit your spouse or your nightstand and hurt yourself," she says. "There are security concerns."

Disturbances in REM sleep behavior can also herald larger health problems. "When someone is diagnosed with REM sleep behavior disorder very early in life, it's associated with a really high conversion rate to someone who will eventually develop Parkinson's orDementia with Lewy bodies.

Is it normal not to dream?

Dr. Drerup says that there is a rare condition called Charcot-Wilbrand syndrome in which people do not dream at all. This sleep loss occurs after focal brain damage (usually astrike), which is characterized by a loss of the ability to recall (or “re-view”) images.

But most people dream, you just don't remember them. "People will say, 'I'm not dreaming at all because I sleep badly.' And that's not necessarily the case," explains Dr. Drerup. "Just because you don't have dream content doesn't mean you don't dream. We usually don't remember our dreams until we wake up from them."

Ultimately, however, the interpretation of dreams remains a great mystery that has not yet been solved. But if you're trying to figure out what your subconscious is trying to tell you, look in your everyday life for clues.

"When we wake up, we can remember the dream very well and then it goes away," says Dr. Drerup. "And then you're back to thinking, 'I know I had a weird dream, but I don't remember it.'" So if you want to be more aware, look at the details when you wake up: how the dream was, see if there are patterns."

"Again, it has a lot more to do with the meaning you give to dreams," he adds. "This is critical. This is more important than dream books that mention specific interpretations.


What are dreams and what do they mean? ›

Dreams are stories and images that our minds create while we sleep. They can be entertaining, fun, romantic, disturbing, and sometimes bizarre. Dreams may have some benefits, such as helping the brain process information gathered during the day.

What dreams are trying to tell you? ›

Scientists and psychologists, old and new, tell us that dreams reveal critical aspects about ourselves. Dreams are a reflection of your recent state of mind, future possibilities, and changes that you have experienced. Related Blog: Do I Really Need 8 Hours of Sleep a Night?

What are dreams in the Bible? ›

In summary, dreams are sometimes considered false and misleading (e.g., Jeremiah and Zechariah) in the Hebrew Scriptures; at other times they describe the vertical axis between man and divinity (or ego and self; Jacob's ladder, or the statue and the tree of Nebuchadnezzar); sometimes Biblical dreams are divine visions, ...

What do people in your dreams mean? ›

As dreams are all about the self—your feelings and behaviors—if you're dreaming about a specific person in your life, then it's likely there's some aspect of them that is currently at work in your life, Loewenberg explains. Perhaps you both share a behavioral trait that is currently being activated.

Do dreams say something about you? ›

While dreams and their recall have something to tell us about personality, recent research suggests dreams reveal something more general. They tell us how our brains function uniquely from other individuals.

Can you control your dreams? ›

Such feats of dream manipulation may not seem possible to the same extent in our real lives, but they are not altogether absent. In fact, a number of people are able to experience something called lucid dreaming, and some of them are even able to control certain elements of their nightly dreams.

What are the dreams before you wake up? ›

Experiencing realistic, intense, and disturbing dreams right before you wake up is a phenomenon known as “hypnopompic hallucinations.” About 8 percent of people 15 to 44 reported experiencing these, a Stanford University study found.

What is the rarest dream to have? ›

Lucid Dreams

These are the rarest type of dreams where the person is aware that they're dreaming, while dreaming. Not just that, people actually feel like they're in complete control of their dream. Because of the awareness that you have, you can easily interpret your own lucid dreams.

What is the #1 most common dream? ›

When we asked our respondents what they dream about over and over again, the most common answer was falling. It turns out that about 54 percent of those surveyed have experienced this heart-pounding dream before.

What is the rarest thing to dream about? ›

Most experts believe that lucid dreams are the rarest type of dreams. While dreaming, you are conscious that you are dreaming but you keep on dreaming. According to researchers, 55 percent of people experience these types of dreams at least one time in their life.

How do you know if you have a vision from God? ›

Vision is revealed as you let your life speak. As you “listen” to your life and what God is saying to you through it, the Holy Spirit will show you what you need to see and understand.

Why does God want us to dream? ›

The dreams that God wants us to pursue are the ones that are linked to our true and genuine desires and that align with His truth. God wants to use our unique gifts and circumstances, aligned with the desires He has embedded into our souls, to do great and wonderful things built on love.

Do dreams mean anything? ›

Alan Eiser, a psychologist and a clinical lecturer at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, says dreams can be “highly meaningful,” because they “deal with the sort of personal conflicts and emotional struggles that people are experiencing in their daily lives.”

How do I find out what a dream means? ›

You can interpret your dreams by learning more about common symbols, keeping a dream diary, and trying to identify personal associations. Dream analysis may be better achieved by working with a psychotherapist.

What is the real purpose of dreams? ›

Lots of theories have been offered: dreams are used to regulate emotion, like dealing with fears; to consolidate memory, replaying things from your day to help remember them; to solve, or on the other hand to forget, real-world problems. Another theory suggests they help the brain predict its own future states.

What causes dreams to happen? ›

Most dreaming occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which we cycle through periodically during the night. Sleep studies show our brainwaves are almost as active during REM cycles as they are when we're awake. Experts believe the brainstem generates REM sleep and the forebrain generates dreams.


1. Understanding Dreams and Their Meaning
(Vlad Savchuk)
2. Comparison: Creepiest Dreams And What They Mean
3. What Do Your Dreams Mean? 💤 w OnlyJayus - #Shorts
4. What Do Your Dreams Really Mean? 💤 w OnlyJayus - #Shorts
5. 10 Common Dream Symbols and Their Biblical Meaning
(Kris Reece)
6. Here’s What Your Dreams Mean - Jordan Peterson
(Success Now)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Greg Kuvalis

Last Updated: 07/10/2023

Views: 6015

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Greg Kuvalis

Birthday: 1996-12-20

Address: 53157 Trantow Inlet, Townemouth, FL 92564-0267

Phone: +68218650356656

Job: IT Representative

Hobby: Knitting, Amateur radio, Skiing, Running, Mountain biking, Slacklining, Electronics

Introduction: My name is Greg Kuvalis, I am a witty, spotless, beautiful, charming, delightful, thankful, beautiful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.