By Tom, on July 28th, 2011
Freud thought dreams were our brains trying to tell us something in a roundabout way, usually about sex. In the 1970s, scientists decided our dreams were just our brains trying to make sense of random brainwaves during sleep. Now, though, scientists think our dreams are incredibly important to our mental growth.
There are 4 stages of sleep. Three of these stages are Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) Sleep, the other stage is the most famous Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep. As you move through this cycle you have dreams. Despite common belief, you dream throughout the cycle, but dreams in NREM sleep and REM sleep are distinctly different.
Recent research shows that dreams in NREM are sedate, calm, calculating (except for night terrors, which occur in the deepest sleep). It’s as if your NREM dreams are helping you figure things out. Through the 3 NREM stages your brain accesses parts of your brain that are unused during wakefulness. It makes new connections, it sorts new experiences. It takes your experiences from the day and analyzes them, learns them. Then you come to the surface.
The REM stage is where your brain puts everything it was sorting in NREM sleep to practice. It is as close to being awake as you can be when you are asleep. Your brain paralyzes your body so that you can go through a dress rehearsal. It wants to experience the new things it learned during NREM, put them in practice. It wants to make them as real as possible.
I want you to try something tonight: as you are falling asleep, think hard of something that you need a solution to. Research has shown that your brain will try to work things out. There is a chance that if you let your subconscious work on the problem it will come up with a better solution than you ever would while awake.