Should you worry about a bad dream reoccurring? And what if you never dream?
Do you sometimes dream that your teeth are falling out? you are not alone. Outside Keyword analysis On Google it turns out that “tooth loss” is the most searched dream in the world. Also in Belgium.
Admittedly, just because the dream is often searched on a search engine does not mean that it is the most dreamy dream. It shows our lifelong fascination with dreams (or our teeth).
Whether a dream about teeth means that you are under a lot of stress, are insecure, or are simply afraid of the dentist, science doesn’t have an answer for that yet. “We know that the content of our dreams is about what matters to us during the day and that dreams can have metaphorical value,” says Aurore Roland, clinical psychologist and nightmare therapist. “For example, if you think all day about how great it would be to have a house in the south of France, you’ll probably dream about it at night, too.”
“But there are no definitive interpretations of every specific dream,” Rowland continues, “although all sorts of dream interpretation guides claim to be there.” Dream analysis mainly depends on the individual context of the person. The same dream can have a completely different meaning for one person than for another. For example, if you dreamed that you were naked at work, I would especially look at the feeling that arouses you, and work on that.
Besides Freud’s well-known interpretation of dreams, is there scientifically grounded research into the meaning of dreams?
RolandThere are very old studies whose quality is debatable. This shows, for example, that there is a big difference between the dreams of men and women. Women are said to have more emotional dreams and less aggressive dreams. For example, they dream more of a family, and men dream more of success. We do not know if this is the case today. Our society, of course, differs from that of the 1970s in terms of gender equality. Today, research into shared dreams has been discontinued because it doesn’t teach us much from a scientific point of view. There are theories about the function and possible meaning of dreams, but such a thing is very difficult to prove. Today we prefer to look at what exactly happens in the brain when we dream.
And what are the processes that occur after that in our dreaming brain?
Roland: Meanwhile, we know that we dream not only during REM sleep, but in every stage of sleep. Dreams also differ with the stage of sleep. In REM sleep we dream more emotionally and there is structure to the story. In deep sleep, dreams are more perceptible, and in the stages of light sleep, vague and loose images appear. There is also a connection between the areas of the brain that are active during waking and dreaming. If someone is walking in their dream, we actually see activation of specific brain regions responsible for walking during a dream. The latest research in the science of dreams focuses on what are called “lucid dreams.” These are dreams in which the dreamer is aware of the fact that he is dreaming. Some people have frequent lucid dreams. That’s because part of their frontal cortex is active during dreaming.
What do our dreams, whether we experience them consciously or not, want to tell us?
Roland: I’m afraid that today we still don’t really know why we dream. A limited group of scientists believes that dreams are just a byproduct of sleep and mean nothing at all. Most of them believe that our dreams have a function. There are all kinds of theories about this. For example, dreams may contribute to the processing of things that happened during the day. Another popular theory is that dreams can help prepare us for certain future events.
Should you worry if you never dream?
RolandPeople who say they never dream cannot remember their dreams. This is not a cause for concern at all. To be able to remember your dreams, two conditions must be met: you are in the waking phase and there must be increased brain activity in the frontal cortex. People with insomnia tend to remember their dreams better because they wake up more often during the night and their brains are more active. There are studies that say using a dream journal helps you remember your dreams, but recent studies conflict with this.
Read more below the article.
How worrying is a recurring nightmare?
Roland: We often see it in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rather, it is part of the natural healing process. After all, one theory as to why we dream is that it helps us process certain events. A nightmare is never the same as the traumatic event itself. Compare it to a movie adaptation. The movie is always a little different from the book. In the normal healing process after the trauma, the nightmare will begin to differ from the trauma over time, becoming less frightening and eventually disappearing. The problem with PTSD is that the nightmare is so terrifying that it keeps waking you up and the dream never ends. The next night, your brain will replay the nightmare movie because your brain wants to be able to see the end of the dream as part of the processing. The result: the brain is constantly stuck in a nightmare and the healing process stops. This can have a significant impact on people’s quality of life. Some are afraid of sleep and have insomnia. Even when all of the PTSD symptoms go away thanks to treatment, the nightmares usually persist.
How can treating nightmares help?
Roland: We first teach people relaxation techniques and show them the function of nightmares in the healing process to get rid of their fear of sleep. Then we confront them with their own nightmare by asking them to write down the dream and read it out loud. This is a very big step for people, because they often haven’t told anyone about their nightmare. Then we give them the opportunity to become directors of their nightmare and adapt the script. This doesn’t have to be a happy ending. Instead, it is a way of letting the brain know that there is a more relaxing bad dream option. Patients should visually imagine this new dream before going to sleep. This dream serves as the basis for the brain to create a new dream and gradually make the nightmare disappear. Lucid dreams can also help with nightmares. If you know that you are dreaming, you can also control the course of the dream. It is something anyone can learn. Although it does not work equally for everyone.
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