- Mental Health
What Are You Dreaming?
What does it really mean?
As a sleep professional, I have participated in many discussions, seminars and theories about dreams and what they mean. I have watched hundreds if not thousands of people sleep. I have seen inside their heads while they slept. I have heard sleep talkers and then personally talked to them right after they have woken up. Of course, I would never tell the patient or subject what they vocalized. I would ask them if they remembered having any dreams and allow them to report what they remembered.
For those of you have never had a sleep study, it is a very comprehensive process. Various electrodes and sensors are attached to the body. Electrodes are placed on the head using a universal and measured placement at predetermined reference points. The purpose of this is to monitor brain activity before and during sleep.
Sleep latency is the time that it takes for a person to go from wake to sleep. A normal sleep latency would be approximately ten to twenty minutes. During wake, your brain waves are very fast. As you fall asleep, the brain waves slow down, markedly. As you move from stage to stage, it is obvious to the trained eye which stage you are in. During deep sleep, the brain waves will increase in amplitude (heighth) and they become much wider.
A normal person goes from wake, to sleep, to stage one, two, three, four then REM. It typically takes a person approximately 90 minutes to achieve the first REM cycle. Dreaming can occur in any stage of sleep, however, it is most vivid while in REM. Dreams that happen during REM are usually easier to recall.
As you move through the stages of sleep, they will become progressively longer during each cycle of sleep. A normal person would have approximately five cyles of sleep each night if they sleep for the recommended eight hour period. This is why you may notice that you wake up from a dream as the alarm sounds. You would typically be in your longest stage of REM.
In the sleep lab setting a patient will be monitored by camera and sound. The sound system is voice activated and both audio and video are recorded and saved. If a patient/subject verbalizes something during sleep a good sleep tech will try very hard to figure out what the patient vocalized and note the digital record and make a note in the chart. All of the tech's that I worked with would re-wind the record, crank up the sound and try to figure out what was said.
I am not going to quote any scientific facts or studies. I am simply telling you from my experience what I believe. No one can tell you what your dream means. You would be surprised at how many patients would ask me if I could see what they were dreaming. I am totally serious. So for those of you who are wondering, the answer is absolutely not. All we can see are your brain waves. That's it.
A dream dictionary is garbage. Dreams are personal. The dreams that you have may have meaning to you, but they are specific to your experiences and feelings. Many dream interpretations apply one or two meanings to a word. Do not pay attention to these, I can assure you it is bogus. For instance, teeth dreams. People like to pick that apart. Many people have them. I looked online at a dream dictionary and it says that teeth dreams signify failures!
Teeth dreams signify bruxism or stress. I have had dreams that my teeth were falling out, how many of you have had a similar dream? Do your jaws ache when you wake up? The dream means your a bit stressed or you may have bruxism. This is teeth grinding. You can get a mouth guard for that. It is very detrimental to the teeth and the enamel.
I monitored a subject in a research study. He participated in a study to test a sleep drug for FDA approval. He was approximately 60 years old and had very short hair. I went in to wake him up and he was lauging and telling me that he dreamed that he had dreadlocks. This was pretty funny really, the wires attached and bundled behind his head were probably the culprit.
I also had a patient who mumbled a bit and shouted, "Cheeseburger!" I am sure that he was hungry. I looked for that definition in the dream dictionary and it told me to put in another symbol.
One theory is that dreams are our minds way of working out our problems while we sleep. Another is that while we are sleeping our thoughts seep from our subconscious mind into the unconscious mind. That would be more believable to me. Another theory I have heard is that the problems we do not want to think about during our waking hours present themselves in dreams. That is a possibility I would be more inclined to believe. Again, it would have a personal meaning and certainly not a universal meaning.
Spending time recording your dreams and looking them up in a dream dictionary may be fun but don't put any stock into them. Better yet save your money.
Your dream belongs to you.