WHAT ARE DREAMS?

Dreams are images or stories that our mind creates. They come from our subconscious (our mind when it is not actively thinking) whilst we sleep.

Sleeping occurs in a cycle and in this cycle are different stages of sleep. We dream when we are at the end of our sleep cycle in the stage known as REM (rapid eye movement). Reports suggest that our dreams are emotional experiences that can often be similar to our real lives.

WHY DO THEY HAPPEN?

Dreams happen because of our brain subconsciously creating situations when we are asleep. The science behind it is not fully understood and there are many different theories. Some of these include the mind working through difficult thoughts, emotions and experiences, or the brain trying to prepare itself to face threats and danger.

WHAT ARE NIGHTMARES AND LUCID DREAMS?

There are different types of dreams, for example nightmares. These are dreams about something that frightens us or causes anxiety. They can be caused by depression, stress and sleep disorders. Nightmares occur at the same time as dreams and are thought to be because of the brain preparing for threats.

Lucid dreams are another type of dream – we are aware that we are dreaming. When lucid dreaming you are able to control what happens in the dream, but the quality of sleep is exactly the same as a normal dream. It also occurs in the same stage of the sleep cycle as dreams, but some believe it is a moment of both being awake and sleeping.

WHY ARE DREAMS IMPORTANT?

Dreams have a strong psychological impact. Research suggests they help with trauma and can offer emotional respite. Important memory structures in the brain are activated while dreaming and this helps us to process upsetting memories subconsciously. It can also improve creativity because of the unrealistic and imaginative events that can happen.

WHAT ROLE DO DREAMS PLAY IN AFRICA?

Dreams have different meanings and purposes in different cultures. There have been more reported cases in Africa that in dreams wisdom is given from something outside of our minds. Dreams are also thought to be sources of information about the spiritual world.

Dreaming is a very abstract concept that no one has yet completely understood. We may know when dreams or nightmares happen, but scientists have many theories as to how and why these occur. However, there is a lot of proof that dreaming has positive outcomes on our emotions and our mind. This is important because these positive outcomes can then help us become more creative.