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Home > Lifestyle News > Health And Fitness News > Article > Dream interpreters reveal why we dream and what do they really mean

Dream interpreters reveal why we dream and what do they really mean

Updated on: 18 March,2023 06:10 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Ainie Rizvi |

Ever dreamt of falling from a height? Or being chased by an animal? On World Sleep Day 2023, dream interpreters reveal what dreams are and analyse the deep-seated meanings of 5 common dreams

Dream interpreters reveal why we dream and what do they really mean

Each year March 17 is observed as World Sleep Day to create call to action on sleep health awareness. Photo Courtesy: iStock

Ever dreamt of falling endlessly from a height? Or being chased by a ghoulish creature down a spiral staircase? If yes, then you will resonate with how real and larger than life those dreams felt. Not only do they create a mental notion of motion but also evoke a physical response which lingers on for a while after you wake up.

But why do we dream and what do they really mean? Dream interpretation has piqued the interest of psychologists and sleep experts for centuries and much rightly so. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis from the 19th century theorised dreams as “repressed ideas or wishes that we are seeking to fulfil in our conscious state”.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst born in 1875, described dreams as “the human psyche’s attempt to communicate important things to the individual”. From a clinical perspective, dreams continue to remain a subject of mystery that psychologists strive to decode. “Dreams are mysterious and have different meanings which can be difficult to unravel at times” shares a city-based doctor, Santosh Bangar from Global Hospital.

What are dreams?
Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospital shares that, “dreams can be defined as the mental imagery or activity that specifically occurs during sleep.” Dreams are known to occur in the rapid eye movement sleep or REM stage of sleep. At this stage, your eyes move rapidly behind your eyelids while your brain is highly active. Dreams also occur during the non-REM phases of sleep.

Sleep experts reveal that dreams are best remembered from the REM sleep, which is typically during the early hours of the morning. REM sleep is when one tends to encounter different dreams that can be positive or even negative, says Dr Bangar. While some dreams reflect subconscious desires and fears, few others tend to reveal an individual’s rising awakening to the changes they are undergoing.

When asked about the number of dreams that our minds conjure up during one sleep cycle, Anand has observed that there can be around five dreams per night. Although, it varies from person to person depending upon the quality of sleep and one’s mental state. While dreaming is common and almost everyone experiences it, Bangar shares that some people don’t dream at all.

Why do we dream?
Dreams are a cumulative vision of our everyday life incidents. As we experience life in moments, we tend to accumulate those memories which shape and dominate our dream sequences. Anand echoes Freud’s theory to highlight that our dreams voice our subconscious wishes that remain unfulfilled or motivations that push us to strive for more. Our fears and trauma also manifest and come before us in the form of visual dream images.

Dreaming also signifies the cognitive abilities of our brain. When we dream during our unconscious state, our brains are functioning to sew up a perfectly sound visual, which is similar to recalling a memory during our conscious state. Therefore, the process of dreaming reflects a healthy and functional brain activity.

However, doctors have found that stress and anger are natural triggers of dreams and need to be dealt with professionally. They are also the tipping point of why one experiences nightmares. Bangar advises psychotherapy if one dreams of nightmares relentlessly, as they may represent a deep-rooted mental issue that seeks expert analysis.

How do dreams manifest physically?
Sleep analysts have detected physical impacts of what one feels when they are dreaming. Anand highlights that the emotions, sensations, and images we feel and visualise during a dream are those that we have encountered in real life. Why this happens is because the same parts of the brain undergo emotional sensations while we are awake and also during various stages of sleep.

The REM stage of sleep is the one where our bodies are the most exposed to physical sensations that arise out of dream visions. For example, if you dream of being chased by an animal, chances are that you will wake up hastily and feel the adrenaline pumping in your blood streams to escape. Another example could be a fight sequence in a dream where one might enact a kick and end up hurting the one they are sleeping next to.

Often trauma is linked to the physical manifestation of terrifying dreams. Trauma and stress trigger the emotional processing of the brain which can override and lead a person to wake up screaming, sweating and increase their heart rates. It also leads them to speak while they are dreaming. The body may continue to remember the feelings of fright and anxiety that they experienced during a dream.

When asked about the effect of sleeping position on our dreams, Anand reports that “Right-side sleepers will have more positive dreams and fewer nightmares when compared to left-side sleepers”. This was verified by the evidence dug by Bangar which confirms that right-side sleepers are more likely to experience better sleep quality than left-side ones.

What do dreams mean?
Interpreting dreams is a process that has charmed psychologists, doctors and researchers and continues to do so. There are multiple theories about the interpretation of dreams. People have often experienced travelling to different places while they are dreaming. Such dreams are an out-of-body experience and are known as Astral Projections.

To delve deeper into the world of dreams, we spoke to Ashtar Tashi, a Pune-based psychic with intuitive abilities. She believes that our mind is a powerful object which communicates with us via signals in our dreams. In her experience of 20 years working as a psychic, she has come across five common dreams that people encounter frequently.

Here are five common dreams and their interpretations:

Dream: You are falling from a height
Interpretation: Tashi echoes that this is one of the commonest dreams people have. This dream can take the form of a plane crash where one is falling from the sky or falling off a cliff. “Falling in your dream implies the fear of failing. Even if one is successful or content with what they do and still encounter this dream, then they need to question themselves about what scares them. Are they scared of a façade they mask? Or are they fearful of the responsibilities that come with success?"

Ultimately, this dream represents repressed fears that we have not resolved within ourselves. If one sees this dream recurrently then it’s time to address issues related to self-worth and overcoming self-doubts.

Dream: You are being followed by a snake or are surrounded with many snakes
Interpretation: Another usual vision people experience in their dreams is to be followed by a snake. According to Tashi, this dream has a serious connotation. The person dreaming of this might be surrounded with dishonest people who are plotting harm silently. These people do not reveal their true intentions and plan to cause damage in some way that this person is not aware of. In this case, one needs to reflect on their close company and choose their confidants wisely.

Dream: You are walking naked in a gathering of people
This could be a disturbing dream which might throw someone off the grid if they set out to analyse it themselves. Fret not. According to Tashi, dreaming of being nude in public signifies a fear of exposure and people finding out about your true self. Mind plays games with us when we are being dishonest to our surroundings. It designs a vision from our deepest fears and presents them in a magnanimous way to tell us that we are being phony. People who have issues with self esteem are the most prone to this dream sequence. It also points towards those who try to fit in an unfavorable surrounding, or try to imitate mannerisms that are opposing to their true qualities.

Dream: You have died in your dreams
When one encounters their own death in a dream, it implies that they are ready to let go of their past and embrace a new life. “The person is reaching a tipping point and they are all set to restart by letting go of what haunts them” shares Tashi. Seeing your own death in a dream is synonymous with a rebirth of new outlook in your real life. In this case, a person needs to accept that they deserve a second chance and let go of bottled up memories. It is also a signal for the person to deal with their childhood traumas and overcome them.

Dream: You are being chased by a mystical creature
Tashi describes this dream as an archetype of a wider dream pool where one is being followed by mystical creatures or animals. “Sometimes mythical animals show up in our dreams. They could be our spirit animals which resonate with our inner self. They visit us in our subconscious state to remind us of our higher purpose.” In this case, one needs to indulge in a self-exploration journey to identify their true traits and abilities. Tashi describes this as a sign of spiritual awakening.

Also Read: How do genetic factors influence oral health

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