Question: what causes us to dream, and why do we dream certain things?

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  1. I don’t know.

    My gut feeling is that our minds remain active when we’re asleep, and there are random firings of neurons. The brain scrambles to make sense of these, which is why dreams are often a mix of recent stuff and random weirdness.

    I like an old theory I read once. That when we’re babies and our spine and brain are forming, the nerves are built up by random firing of the nerves. It’s like we’re getting in training. When we’re adults, and asleep, this process occasionally still happens. A bolt of neuroelectricity gets sent up the spine into the brain, and the brain has to try to make sense of it.

    Don’t know if that theory is true. But it’s neat.


  2. Sleep scientists study this question, and they still aren’t sure. Some think that dreams are a way for the brain to sift through junk it has accumulated during the day. Others think that dreams represent unconscious thoughts and desires of the person and can be interpreted during counselling. I’m not sure this second idea is true.

    I tend to have dreams that have something to do with things I did that day. So I think dreams are just the way that the brain throws out all the junk it doesn’t need to store long term.


  3. Most dreams occur while we are in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the fourth and deepest stage of sleep. The muscles are relaxed during this time and most of the body is still (except for the movement of the eyes), but the brain is very active. REM sleep is an important time for memory and learning as our brain consolidates things encountered during the day.

    So I would think that with all the brain activity that’s going on, we might have some awareness of it in the form of dreams. If the brain is trying to store recent events in memory, then they are bound to pop up in these dreams as the brain pathways which lead to these memories are being activated.