The City Mattress Blog

sleep tips

The Purpose of Dreams: What They are, why we Have Them, and How They Tell us About our Sleep


Man Sleeping

Dreams are a normal part of healthy sleep. Whether you remember them or not, everyone dreams for a total of about two hours per night. Dreams can actually occur during any stage of sleep, although they’re most vivid during the REM phase. The purpose of dreams has been a subject of speculation for thousands of years. In fact, even in 2019, experts still have more questions than answers. That is why they are so fascinating! Here is what we know so far:

Dreams and Creativity 

Dreams can act as your creative muse. One theory for why we dream is that it helps facilitate our creative tendencies. Without the logic filter or restrictions to your creative flow you might normally have, your thoughts and ideas can run wild when you’re sleeping! Artists of all kind credit dreams with inspiring some of their best work. Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein, Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Beatles song “Yesterday,’ and Stephen King’s famous tale Misery are just a few examples. In addition to creative works of art, the Periodic Table, the sewing machine needle, the shape and structure of DNA, and Jack Nicklaus’s golf swing were all conceived in dreams as well.

Fight-or-Flight Reflexes

Dreams help you “train” your fight-or-flight reflexes. The amygdala is the part of your brain associated with your survival instincts, also known as the “fight-or-flight response.” Maybe not so coincidentally, this is also one of the areas of the brain that is most active during dreaming. One popular theory states that because the amygdala is more active during sleep than in your waking life, it may be the brain’s way of preparing you to deal with a threat one day. It is also worth noting that the brainstem sends out nerve signals during REM sleep that relax your muscles. That way you don’t try to run or punch in your sleep to act out your dreams. It is almost like your brain is running through a simulation, so you’re prepared to deal with anything life throws at you. After all, you’ve “practiced” for it all!

Dreams and Memory

Dreams enable your thoughts and everyday experiences to be transferred to your memory. One widely held theory about the purpose of dreams is that they help you store important memories and things you’ve learned while you sort through complicated thoughts and feelings. Scientific studies have shown that if you learn new information and sleep on it, you’ll be able to recall it better than if asked to remember that information without the benefit of sleep. How dreams affect memory storage and recall isn’t one hundred percent understood yet. The current theory by experts is that dreams allow the brain to more efficiently store important information while blocking out unneeded stimuli that could interfere with memory and learning. 

Dreams and Your Health

Dreams can tell you a thing or two about your health. It probably comes as no surprise that your dreams often mirror the status of your mental health. For example, many sleepers have a stressful week at work and then dream they showed up to high school unprepared for class long after they’ve left school. If you’re a diabetic, having vivid dreams may indicate a sudden drop in blood sugar, known as Hypoglycemia. If you find yourself waking up from a nightmare in a cold sweat, it could be a sign that you have the flu or a similar illness coming on. Feverish dreams can serve as a warning to the rest of your body that your body temperature is too high.

If you are not remembering any dreams for weeks or even months, this can be a sign you are not reaching REM and therefore not getting a good night of sleep. This lack of dreams could signal that something is interrupting your sleep cycle. Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is briefly and frequently interrupted, causing the brain to wake up the body in order to restart breathing. You may be waking up frequently because you’re getting too hot, or you feel uncomfortable and need to change positions. All of these issues affecting your sleep cycle breaking up, and therefore causing a lack of dreams, can be helped by sleeping on a better mattress!

For many people, a better mattress can be a big part of the solution to any sleep-related issue. While in a City Mattress store, you will have the opportunity to lay on and try out several different mattresses, produced by a variety of brands, made from different materials, and all with their own unique feel. You then choose the one that feels best to you. As quickly as tomorrow night, you’ll be sleeping soundly through the entire eight hours, entering REM on a regular cycle, and having pleasant dreams.