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Why We Dream: Facts, Theories And The History of Dreams & Nightmares

Updated on October 21, 2011

Why Do We Dream? Why Do Many Dreams Make No Sense?

I draw many pictures that reflect my dreams, nightmares and supernatural experiences.
I draw many pictures that reflect my dreams, nightmares and supernatural experiences. | Source

Am I dreaming??

Have you ever awoken from sleep startled and confused? Does it take a moment to realize where you are? Was your dream so real that you believed it was truly happening to you? Have you ever had a dream or nightmare that left such a feeling of oppression and sadness that you couldn't shake that feeling all day long?

After researching the medical and historical aspects of dreaming, I have learned many new and interesting facts and theories. Through my own personal experiences, and people who have come to me for personal advice regarding their dreams, I feel like I have had a wonderful opportunity to place all the pieces together to see the bigger picture of how the human mind creates a dream.

Robin's Dream Collection
Robin's Dream Collection | Source

Not One Single Consensus Proven

On average, a person sleeps 33% of their life. That equals over 22.5 years if you assume the average lifespan to be 75 years. The word dream is derived from "Drem," dating back to 1290 AD in Old English, meaning music and joy. The word nightmare also originated from the Old English word "maere," meaning goblin or incubus. It was believed that a nightmare was an evil spirit attempting to suffocate or possess a sleeping person. Over time, the spellings and meanings have changed. The Egyptians once believed that dreams and nightmares were a sign of the future, past, and even the ability to travel into different realms of space and into other worlds. Ancient Hebrews thought that dreams were messages from God. If you have ever read the Bible, you will know how many incidents where a man speaks of his dreams."An Angel appeared to me.." "God revealed all to me in a dream.."

Is There A Logical, Medical Reason?

Quick sketch of the "Monster" I repeatedly dream of.
Quick sketch of the "Monster" I repeatedly dream of. | Source

Do Health Care Professionals Really Know?

Instead of using foul language when I am utterly frustrated, I use one phrase.. "GEEZ OH PEEPS!" That was my reaction after viewing all of the excessive amounts of "possible" reasons why a person dreams due to medical issues and/or conditions.

Let's begin with the famous Psychoanalyst Dr. Freud, who believed that dreams were suppressed desires, feelings, wish fulfillment, and sexual gratification. His obsession with the topic of the Oedipus Complex, (The psycho-sexual phase that occurs in young children between the ages of 3-5) Dr. Freud tried analyzing the dreams of young children. It was later discovered that there was nothing he was able to prove or even connect to prove that theory.

As for now, medical science has offered many "possible" reasons for adults and children to dream the things they do. There are a wide range of medications and conditions they believe may have an effect. Quick list; antidepressants, blood pressure medication, anxiety, sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, withdraws from medications, post traumatic stress, depression, late night snacking.. the list goes on. Still, with so many possibilities, they cannot conclude any definite answers.

It has been said that we cannot dream in color, see our own reflection, feel and hear vividly, and realize you are dreaming. The majority of theories are based on suppressed feelings, emotions and flashbacks from our past. It's also been said that the mind finds ways to entertain itself while asleep.

Amazing Theory

My daughter and grandson, 2007
My daughter and grandson, 2007 | Source

Awww.. He Has Your Eyes...

Theoretically speaking, I have often wondered.. If your child is born with many likenesses of you, family, daddy, etc. These are genes and traits handed down from generations of families. Why can't memories be passed along as well? I believe we have the ability to store that information and it becomes revealed in our sleep. Have you ever had a dream where you knew it was you, but didn't look like yourself? Maybe you were in some odd place you never have been to before? Have you ever talked to people in your dreams and remember their names? Next time.. try. After having a very realistic dream, I awoke and immediately scribbled down names, words and colors I saw throughout the dream. I have found that I was dreaming of a past event that was real. Not in my lifetime, but it was me in someone else's shoes from a very long time ago. I did look up all I remembered and it dated back to a story in the book of Genesis. Names were exact. Events were the same. Interesting?


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    • robilyn profile image

      robilyn 6 years ago from Largo, Florida

      James.. Thank you for your kindness. For some reason, I feel that I'd enjoy having a conversation with you. I have 4 more strories I'm working on that will also include some of my older drawings. I hope you will like them. It's good to hear from you. Please stay in touch!

      To opinionduck: Great information, but I hope you would take the time to read my next 2 stories that continue my theory. As far as math, numbers.. I am continuously able to match dates using number for things that have happened and have not yet occurred. Strange to most.. yes, but a fact is a fact. Yes.. the brain solves problems and I completely bleieve that not everyone is the same "Brainy Catergory." Have you ever felt that we are so far behind in technology that something doesn't seem right? What if.. Time travel into the future was possible. If man can get from one side of the universe to the next, they would age only for that time. Maybe it's happened and we are spending the many years waiting while they're only a few days older?? Just a curious question?? Any comment?

      Thanks Again!

    • profile image

      opinionduck castout by hubpages 6 years ago

      Dreams like the curing of the common cold are not yet understood by science.

      Most dreams as you say are viewed in black and white. In addition the scenery in it is more like the scenery at a play, just the minimum of props to make the scene.

      My opinion is that the human brain is a bio computer that is programmed to produce answers. Unfortunately, the answer is the main focus of the brain, and not the quality of the answer.

      For example, going back to a mechanical calculator. You punch in some number and you give it a function like multiple, divide, add or subtract, and out pops the answer. The answer is correct but some numbers cause decimals which are then rounded by the calculator. So while the answers are not precisely correct they are good enough for most situations.

      There is an exception, and that is dividing any number by zero doesn't compute. You cannot divide by zero but the mechanical calculator tried to do it. The result was a mechanical calculator that will forever try to come up with an answer that doesn't exist.

      The human brain is like that calculator in some respects. At the end of the day, the brain needs closure for all of the problems that it encountered during the day. At night, it may try to continue the problem to a solution. This may work sometimes, but in the times it doesn't work, I believe that the brain takes whatever information it has and tries to put it together to make a answer in the form a dream. The dream is not for the benefit of the person dreaming it, but for the brain to be able to move away from the divide by zero loop.

      While we are awake we can override the decision of the brain, but not when we dream. Maybe some people can have some method to make some control in their dreams, they are made through suggestions while they are awake, or maybe even through hypnosis.

      Any, I believe that dreams are the brain's way of packaging up left over bits, that it cannot process to a solution. So in a sense it is like rebooting your computer when it gets stuck.

      The fact that a normal brain can even distinguish a dream from reality can be used to support my opinion.

      Dreams exist not only in short term memory but even in your long term memory. But the normal functioning brain knows that a memory is either a dream or a reality being recalled.

      Computer work in the world of numbers of one and zero, yet this binary system of numbers is transformed by the computer hardware, firmware and software to do all that we see computers doing today.

      The brain like the computer has a native system that is the lowest form of its communication. I believe that the brain works with symbols unknown to us. These symbols are then used to generate the higher form of language for us.

      We don't know how this works in a person's brain, but we can understand the final result. I believe that dreams are symbolic mechanisms that haven't been fully converted by the brain. The reason must be that it is meant for use by the brain and not the person.

      The human brain has more facets than even the most powerful computer today. These include the human factors, and the ability to think on its own.

      My point is that dreams are an internal function that serves a purpose for the brain even if the person cannot understand it. That purpose is to not try to divide by zero, that is not have an unsolvable problem.

      The brain's goal is to solve problems, and it will always come up with an answer. That answer could be right or wrong but it will be resolved.

      Everyone's brain is unique so not everyone has a brain that works this way. In those brains, results vary.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      First I must say that I am blown away by your art. You are amazingly gifted as an artist. Wow!

      I remember a lot of my dreams. Nearly every day I wake up remembering at least one dream. Most of them are good dreams. If they are bad, they involve me being chased, shot, or stabbed. But for the most part they are quite pleasant, like watching a good movie. I never have monsters in my dreams. And no supernatural or unnatural beings. I have surreal landscapes quite often. But the people are always easily identifiable as real folks.

      Thank you for this thought-provoking article. I enjoyed the journey very much. Welcome to the HubPages Community!

    • profile image

      catherine 6 years ago

      Very interesting! I enjoyed reading your story you are truly talanted. Keep up the great work:)

    • robilyn profile image

      robilyn 6 years ago from Largo, Florida

      From my heart, thank you. I look forward to reading your pages.. the topics you have chosen are compelling. I wanted to let you know that I did date several dreams back throughout time. I have been astonished with the facts! Oddly, there was nothing happening in my life at the time to reflect the stories I am still dreaming about. However, I am writing about these dreams and hope to post it soon. I hope you'll like it!! Thanks again! Robilyn

    • profile image

      stessily 6 years ago

      robilyn: Congratulations on an interesting debut hub. Your drawings are compact and intriguing, especially your recurrent monster.

      After an inattentive phase in which my dreams faded all too quickly or disappeared, without leaving any traces or hints, after I awoke, I now am back to being aware of my dreams, which definitely are conveying some things, some clear, some mysterious.

      Tracing your dream back to a story in Genesis is fascinating. Which story? Was there a message in that story that personally resonated with you?

      "Geez oh peeps" is charming and amusing and far better than redundant foul words. What is its derivation?

      Thank you for sharing this information as well as your drawings. It is great that you are able to capture your dreams into such flowing, interconnected images which probably are revelations in themselves.

      Voted up+useful+interesting+funny+awesome+beautiful

      Kind regards, Stessily