Why Do We Dream?

For those who wish to discuss the purely scientific aspects of sleep and dreams, including new research and future technologies.
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HAGART
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Why Do We Dream?

Postby HAGART » 08 Nov 2013 05:57

Why Do We Dream In The First Place?

Why is it evolutionarily practical? There are many scientific theories why, but I'm no scientist. I still wonder about it, though. I understand why sleep is important to rest, and recharge the body- That makes sense. But why is there a need to dream in our minds?
To answer this, you must first define exactly what a dream is. Then ask some other questions:


So first of all:
What is a dream?
(We all know what it is, but how exactly do you define it? Especially without using waking-perspective-of-reality as a comparison).

Then let's think about:
What happens to a person's psyche, and mood when they DON'T dream? And WHY?
(It's a known fact that sleep deprivation and lack of dreams can lead to temporary psychosis. Does 'rest' recharge the body, and 'dreams' recharge the mind?).

Do other animals dream besides us humans?
(I know mammals sleep. There's a disheveled, hairy one living in my house.... NO, not me; It's my dog! I don't know if he actually dreams, but he certainly seems to chase things in his sleep sometimes... :lol: But what about other animals like ants or bees? At the most basic level, do they dream? Having similar brains, do dolphins and apes dream like us?)

I'll ask it again:
What's the purpose of dreams?
How is it an evolutionary advantage? Or is it just a side effect of self-awareness?


These are just talking points to start a discussion. Don't feel the need to answer them all in one reply. Pick one you like that strikes a chord with you, and you can get to others later, or start your own question. I'll do my best to rein people in and keep them on topic. Although this is "The Science Channel Section" any theory is valid for consideration.
If we all lucid dreamed this world would be a better place.

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KungFuPanther
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby KungFuPanther » 08 Nov 2013 22:26

Okay, I'll answer as many as I think I can...

What is a dream? Yes, uh, right. Well, a dream... is... a "story," that the brain tells itself while the body is asleep... these can vary from vivid and memorable to shallow and easily forgotten. During this time, the brain keeps chemicals that move the muscles(e.g. histamine) from getting to the body so that we do not act out our dreams. Usually, most dreams occur during REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The reason that our eyes move is because we think we are looking at something during our dreams.

What purpose does it serve? Well, I will not say that this is the result of millions of years of evolution, because there are numerous holes in the theory of evolution and it is just that: a theory. But I will talk of that some other time to avoid a battle lol :)

If you deprive a mouse of REM sleep for 3 days, it will have problems. You can give it normal sleep which is fine and all, but if the mouse doesn't enter REM it will have a constantly deteriorating memory. So thereby, I believe that dreams are what organizes our memories. ( will post more later)
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HAGART
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby HAGART » 08 Nov 2013 22:48

For the sake of this discussion let's all assume that evolution is real.
I thought about this some more and it seems strange that evolution would make us and other animals have to sleep. It makes us vulnerable to predators.

Then I realized that sleep has nothing to do with recharging the body at all, but is about recharging and reorganizing the mind. Why don't we just sit still and alert for 8 hours every night? It's because we have a brain. Any animal with a brain must inevitably lose consciousness and sleep. It's how it works.

So sleep is not really evolutionarily advantageous, but necessary for a brain to work at optimum efficiency. Why that is, is another question.

But that's just sleep and not dreams. Certain parts of the brain are active when we sleep, like the areas responsible for emotions, sensations and memories. If we interpret and make sense of this activity, we create places and scenarios in our minds based on real world experience. That is a dream.

But I don't think it's necessary to create the illusions we see, and could probably sleep and experience these sensations and feelings without giving them a story. Perhaps we would simply feel emotions as we see vague abstract colors and hear tones without meaning and that's it. For animals with brains that don't have much awareness, perhaps that's what they experience. For us, we have a vast storage of memories, and perhaps that's why we dream of places and things and people from our lives.

I've also been thinking about the sleep cycle and the different sleep periods and the order they come in. They are no accident and through trial and error, and evolution, for some reason it's the best way to reorganize the brain for peak efficiency. I wonder why that is?
If we all lucid dreamed this world would be a better place.

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KungFuPanther
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby KungFuPanther » 08 Nov 2013 23:35

Why are dreams illusions of stories and memories we "lived" through and not just hypnagogia and tones and emotions? Good question. Perhaps it is more effective, but efficiency is debatable when everyone remembers Martin Luthor King Jr.'s words, "I have a dream," yet racism still persists to this day.

Okay, just kidding.

I think they are actual images, people, storylines, sense stimulation because they are somehow linked to what we remember. Tones and hypnagogia could not be effectively connected to memories. And it also could be just a fundamental desire in human nature for entertainment.

Y'know, insanity itself can be achieved by depriving all human senses for only 4 days.
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HAGART
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby HAGART » 09 Nov 2013 17:35

KungFuPanther wrote:And it also could be just a fundamental desire in human nature for entertainment.


I thought of this too. We all hate boredom and the best way to kill boredom is with sensory input. Movies, music, conversation etc. We have such a strong desire for it, we even do it when we sleep!

I've experienced hypnagogia once that become a full blown dream. I saw vague shapes in darkness and then they started to look like something I recognize. (Our brains love to interpret any shape including random ink blots). I saw a column, and then assumed it must be part of a building. (My own assumption). So then a place developed. But the column was on an angle, and so I questioned what is up and what is down. Where's the line of horizon? I reached out and 'poof' I was suddenly in a vivid 3D dream standing near a building with a large column outside it.

Our minds spend all day taking in external information to create the reality we know. The same happens when we are fed internal, synthesized information. Perhaps that's why we dream. The brain is doing what it does best and what it was designed for.
If we all lucid dreamed this world would be a better place.

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KungFuPanther
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby KungFuPanther » 09 Nov 2013 21:01

HAGART wrote:
Our minds spend all day taking in external information to create the reality we know. The same happens when we are fed internal, synthesized information. Perhaps that's why we dream. The brain is doing what it does best and what it was designed for.


I do believe that is what it is designed for, And that it was specifically designed.

Anyway, do animals dream? I think so. And I think most of their dreams are vivid and lucid.

Let's start with my dog here at home, Jake. Now, Jake is a Labrador Retriever, which means he is one of the smartest breeds of dogs on the planet. But, Jake is still nowhere near my intelligence, or that of any other person, because dogs don't have languages, math problems, or too much survival instincts. Jake does however know his name, knows my name, and knows different verbal commands. And of course, he knows what another dog looks like. So, in order to retain these different bits of information, he dreams.(Which is evident when I see him "running" in his sleep and half barking.)

But, because he does not have nearly as much information stored in his brain as I do, Organizing his memories should be much easier; Meaning that there are probably less dreams that he forgets and more dreams that he remembers.

Now, Why does Jake appear to try to be running and barking in his sleep? Now, we could say that animal's sleep paralysis is not as effective as humans, or, we could say that they're dreams are so vivid that they might be trying to actually act it out. I have also noticed that many people while having lucid dreams smile in their sleep, or twitch their arms when try to throw a punch or something of the like. Now if dogs have many vivid dreams then perhaps in one point in their lives they can distinguish that they are dreaming. Now, Jake probably doesn't know what a dream is, but he could think of it as "the place that I go when I sleep."

That we be pretty cool if one day a machine is invented to bridge other people's dreams. I would use it on me and Jake, to see if he has ever tried to be a person in his dreams lol :D
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HAGART
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby HAGART » 10 Nov 2013 00:17

Dogs certainly dream.

They have emotions and memories just like use and their brains are nearly identical to ours. (I haven't looked it up, but I bet it's true). They must have a hippocampus and amygdala too I am sure. If you have those... and you sleep.... you dream.

But WHAT do they dream about? We can only speculate. My dog barks in his sleep too. He must be fighting off dream characters. :lol:

But is he lucid when he dreams, and knows the difference between awake and sleep? To answer that, you must consider the fact that a dog may not be fully lucid ever even when awake. Smart is one thing, but self awareness is another. I actually don't know. Maybe they DO know the difference between dreams and reality.

We need a dream machine to find out!
If we all lucid dreamed this world would be a better place.

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Summerlander
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby Summerlander » 10 Nov 2013 23:55

Dreams could be the result of the brain rebooting itself. Once cerebral regions have rested with minimal activity for a short period of time, they begin to reactivate leading to REM before waking consciousness. There are also studies that have indicated that dreaming can be beneficial in help one to resolve mental conflict or providing creativity. (No point mention in detail the wonders that a good night sleep can do: concentration, memory, mood...)

Dreaming is the ensuant phenomenon to a dormant brain unfolding itself back to waking consciousness.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava

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KungFuPanther
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby KungFuPanther » 11 Nov 2013 04:35

Summerlander wrote:Dreams could be the result of the brain rebooting itself. Once cerebral regions have rested with minimal activity for a short period of time, they begin to reactivate leading to REM before waking consciousness. There are also studies that have indicated that dreaming can be beneficial in help one to resolve mental conflict or providing creativity. (No point mention in detail the wonders that a good night sleep can do: concentration, memory, mood...)

Dreaming is the ensuant phenomenon to a dormant brain unfolding itself back to waking consciousness.

[ Post made via Android ] Image


Possibly, but if my fuzzy memory is correct, brain scans show that the brain so most active during sleep. So I don't really know if it is a "reboot" process. But I could be wrong, and you could be right.

And sometimes REM kicks in right after going to sleep, so I don't know if that would be enough time to turn off and reboot. :D
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Summerlander
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Re: Why Do We Dream?

Postby Summerlander » 12 Nov 2013 12:46

When we are awake with our eyes open we typically generate low-voltage, fast beta brain rhythms in the 12-18 Hz range, then we experience the alpha rhythms when our eyes are closed and we are in a relaxed but alert state. As sleep creeps up on us higher-voltage theta rhythms develop in the 4-8 Hz range. When we lose waking conscious altogether and are enfolded by sleep, the EEG trace shows a distinctive waveform known as a sleep spindle whose amplitude rises and falls at a frequency of 15-18 Hz. In the deepest sleep, very high-voltage, slow 1-4 Hz delta waves dominate. Because EEG electrodes are placed on the scalp, it is still not known where exactly such electrical rhythms originate within the brain. Paul & Charla Devereux's "Lucid Dreaming: Accessing Your Inner Virtual Realities" has a good description of what is going on when we sleep.

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"Empty cognizance of one taste, suffused with knowing, is your unmistaken nature, the uncontrived original state. when not altering what is, allow it to be as it is, and the awakened state is right now spontaneously present."

- Padmasambhava


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