We’ve all heard about the importance of dreaming and that it happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. I must admit that reading about sleep studies makes me doze off, but one new report woke me up. It seems that dreaming, the work of REM sleep, creates what differentiates our brains from computers.
What’s the difference between how our brains work and how computers work? It’s the distinction between knowledge (retention of individual facts) and wisdom (knowing what they all mean when you fit them together). Wisdom comes from dreaming, and dreaming only happens during REM sleep.
Your brain needs to dream. Scientists found that deep non REM sleep strengthens individual memories. But during REM sleep those memories blend in novel ways. During a dream, our brains process huge quantities of knowledge and arrive at previously unavailable outcomes.
Studies show that we’re all better problem solvers after REM sleep, whether it happens during a full night’s sleep or even a 60 to 90 minute nap that includes REM sleep. That explains why we may go to sleep challenged by a problem and wake up with wise insights into what to do.
That’s the intriguing news about the impact of dreaming, but there’s also disappointing news if you’re fascinated by interpreting your dreams.
While many of us may feel that our dreams have meaning, science is skeptical of that claim. Many scientists consider dreaming to be an unintended consequence of sleep — a byproduct of evolution with no insight into our unconscious.
There are many books and theories about how to interpret the hidden meaning of the symbols we recall in our dreams and nightmares. There are even specialized therapists and websites dedicated to supporting us in this goal. For example, thedreambible.com is an online dictionary that acts as a free resource to help understand the meaning of dreams.
Is it enough if the sole function of dreams is to help us be wise problem solvers? Imagine never saying again, “I had a fascinating dream the other night. I wonder what it means.”
Sources: Why Your Brain Needs to Dream by Dr. Matthew Walker, www.whatyourdreammeans.com, www.dreambible.com, Hamlet by William Shakespeare.