Dreams are Essential to Our Mental Health: Every Night We Heal

By Jasmine Aguayo

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

Before Freud, people believed that dreams were a celestial experience. He was the first to propose that, indeed, our dreams were a product of subconscious thoughts, feelings, and desires (Freud, 1900). Soon after, science sought to unravel the delicate intricacies of our brain and discovering its many functions remains an ongoing investigation.

Matthew Walker, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley and the director of its Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab has used groundbreaking research to disentangle the functions of the sleeping mind.

Phases of Sleep

When we sleep well, we dream. Prior to reaching a dream state, we drift between Non REM (non-rapid eye movement) phases of relaxation. At level 1 (Alpha), there is an alternation between awake and light sleep. The second phase of sleep (Theta) consists of lower frequency brain waves with a higher amplitude. Levels 3 & 4 (Delta) are referred to as slow wave sleep with an even lower frequency and high amplitude waves. Following these stages, we reach REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which mimics the awake state. Most often visions drift through our head causing twitches, jerks, subtle movement, or slurred speech.

Some argue that dreaming is a by-product of REM sleep and has no further importance. Recent studies have proven this to be wrong. In fact, a lack of dreaming can be detrimental to our mental and emotional health.

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