What did you dream about last night? Did you dream at all? Dreams can be some of the strangest, most surreal experiences we have, yet sometimes, it's still not always clear why we dream in the first place. Take me, for example: Despite the fact that I dream on a regular basis, I can't fully explain why it is I have visions of Ryan Seacrest when I close my eyes. As you can imagine the answer to why we dream is fairly complicated.
Thankfully, we've got this video from Amy Adkins and TED Ed to fully explain every facet of why we dream. Humans, you see, have been recording and discussing their dreams for thousands and thousands of years. It's a universal experience that has continually served both to puzzle and to inspire us. Dreams have acted as creative fuel, psychological discoveries, and spiritual visions. Essentially, you should tell your boss that taking a nap under your desk will actually help you make a better presentation for tomorrow's meeting.
This beautifully animated lesson on the realm of dreams notes that while there are no "definite" answers, we do have some pretty good guesses. A few of them might be pretty obvious, but some of them are really surprising. I personally know I'm now very excited to go to bed tonight.
Check out five of my favorite theories about why we dream below, and scroll down to watch the full video.
1. To Fulfill Our Wishes
We have good ol' Freud to thank for this theory. According to Freud, we dream using elements and symbols from our day to day lives. The way we perceive these elements in dreams reveals subconscious desires that we are otherwise unable to confront. This can mean a lot of things. For example, dreaming about swimming could mean you are subconsciously regressing to life in the womb. Yep — that's Freud for you.
2. To Remember
The TED video describes a study that was conducted in 2010. In the study, participants were confronted with a "complex" maze. Following the first attempt at completing this maze, those who napped and dreamed about the maze performed up to 10 times better when attempting the maze the second time. Those who remained awake and those who napped but did not dream of the maze did not perform as well. This adds to a theory that "certain memory processes can only happen while dreaming."
3. To Forget
Conversely, dreaming can help us shed excess thoughts and memories. New thoughts forms new neural connections, but we don't necessarily need all of these connections. In fact, if we remembered everything from a day, these excess neural connections might actually get in the way of our regularly scheduled programming. Therefore, dreaming provides a necessary "unlearning" period.
4. To Rehearse
Anxiety and fear-ridden dreams are very common. One theory suggests that these particularly upsetting dreams might actually be a way of mentally preparing ourselves for the worst. Not that you're likely to run into a wolf or suddenly be giving a speech naked, but the feelings are there. On the positive side, we can also rehearse for cool things, so at least there's that.
5. To Solve Problems
In your dreams, literally anything is possible: Flying, partying with Lady Gaga, working out things with your ex, and more. Dreams provide a rules-free way for us to process situations and come up with innovative solutions to things happening in our lives. When you have something you're trying to figure out (i.e. how am I going to party with Gaga this weekend?), the best solution might actually be to "sleep on it."
Watch the full video below for more theories on why we dream: