While we sleep, our brains remain active. Our minds supply us with stories and images that, at times, can closely resemble reality, and at other times, are entirely irrational and fantastical. If you’re not one of the people who can remember your dreams, or you don’t think you ever dream, you may be surprised to learn that you still benefit from dreaming. Even if you don’t recall your dreams, everyone is believed to enter REM (dream state) between three and six times each night. Dreaming is a universal human trait, but 95% of dreams are forgotten before we even get out of bed in the morning, so it isn’t a surprise that we might not realize the impact dreaming has on our lives. Here are some benefits of dreaming that you may not have considered.
Help Us Stay Asleep
Our dreams can help to ensure we get a good night’s sleep. Most of us have experienced a dream that somehow incorporated our alarm going off into the dream. This is an example of how dreams can help us remain asleep by blending the sounds of our environment into our internal dream world. In this sense, our dreams serve as a defense mechanism against disruptions in our sleep.
Help Us Learn
While we’re asleep, our brains use dreams to help reprocess information we take in during or conscious hours. Dreams help to consolidate learning and memory. This is critical to our ability to learn and remember information. Those who are deprived of sleep will often struggle to remember and learn new information.
Help Us Emotionally Process
As we sleep, our brains still work on solving the problems of our waking world. Dreaming can help us to make decisions, hence the familiar phrase, “sleep on it.” Often we discover that after a good night’s sleep, we have a sense of intuition concerning life situations that we didn’t have before dreaming.
Another way in which dreams can help us emotionally is by serving to balance our emotions or allow us to process those emotions in a safe psychological space. If we are upset about something when we drift off to sleep, we may have pleasant dreams to counterbalance the negative feelings we are experiencing. Or our dreams may be fraught with similar feelings. Our dreams allow us to process emotions that may be complex. Dreams offer a psychological space where these highly complex thoughts and feelings can come together, providing the equilibrium we need.
Inspire Our Creativity
Just as our dreams can help us solve problems, they can also spark novel ideas. Creative individuals are often inspired by their dreams to produce their art. The chorus of John Lennon’s song “#9 Dream” came directly from a dream Lennon had. The film Inception is based on director Christopher Nolan’s lucid dreams. Writers often keep notebooks next to their beds to quickly capture the creative ideas that their dreams inspire.
These are just a few of the benefits of dreaming. You never know, research may still uncover further benefits in the future. We may not all remember our dreams, but dreams influence our lives more than we might imagine. In the words of Jack Kerouac, “All human beings are also dream beings…Dreaming ties all mankind together.”