Dreams and what they can tell you

April 10, 2019

As high school students, we are all too familiar with sleep deprivation. Up late studying or just procrastinating homework, the few hours we get every night are precious, but very few people understand the effects of insomnia on sleep cycles–specifically dreams.

Sigmund Freud, a famous 19th-century Austrian psychologist, pioneered the study of dreams and psychoanalysis–a branch of psychology that aims to release repressed emotions and experiences to make memories of the unconscious conscious. To this day, there is still a lot that we do not know about our dreams. However, there are many studies that try to explain this seemingly simple yet complex mystery of the mind.

Dreams are the stories and images our minds create while we sleep. When someone is sleep deprived, they typically have greater brain activity while they are sleeping; dreaming is increased and generally become more vivid.

Dreaming occurs primarily during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of our sleep cycles– quick, sharp movements of the eyes under closed eyelids. In REM, our brain activity uncannily reflects that of a lucid state. However, our bodies lie still in a paralyzed state, keeping us from acting out the stories we dream.

Sleep is an escape and a way that students can relax and let go of their day-to-day worries, right? Wrong. Studies have shown the stressful situations we encounter in our daily lives infiltrate our dreams. According to author Netta Weinstein, a social and environmental psychologist at Cardiff University in Wales, our minds are wired to hold onto intense social experiences. If we are facing a strenuous hardship, it is typical for a similar situation to play itself out in our dreams.

Negative experiences in our lives impact our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Stress builds worry, which leads to dreams that reflect the anxiety response in the brain. The response, however, is interchangeable. Researchers have found that anxiety not only disrupts sleep, but bad sleep patterns also cause anxiety.

Overall, vivid dreams and deep sleep may serve as warnings of more serious sleep issues than previously thought. Students should be more aware of their sleep patterns, and make sure to balance school and rest to get the proper amount of effective sleep.

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