5 Scientific Thoughts about Dreams
Dreams remain a bit of a mystery. Why do some people remember their dreams and others rarely remember what they dreamt? Can you solve a problem in your sleep? Here are 5 thoughts from recent scientific research.
1. High Recall Dreamers are dreamers who remember their dreams about five mornings out of a week. Low recall dreamers only remember their dreams about twice a month. In a recent study at France’s Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, the scientists tried to define what made low recall and high recall dreamers remember or not remember their dreams.
2. Scientists used a PET scan to look at the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) where the temporal and parietal lobes meet. The TPJ incorporates information from both the external environment as well as what is happening in the body. It collects this information and processes it. They also looked at the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) which is thought play a part in decision making and retrieval of long-term memory. They monitored these areas of the brain both when the subjects were sleeping and when they were awake. High recall dreamers showed more activity in these areas of the brain in both waking and sleeping states.
3. The Brain doesn’t Form New Memories during sleep — that is a known fact. However, another study showed that high recall dreamers awakened throughout the night about twice as often as those who didn’t remember. The higher activity in the TPJ and MPFC may account for the frequent awakenings which give the high recall dreamers more chance to commit their dreams to memory – even if they are awake for such a brief time that they don’t even know it happened.
4. Whether Dreams can Solve Problems is an old question – with some saying their dreams guide them or bring them solutions. A study at the Liverpool John Moores University took a scientific look at whether this was fact or fiction. To do this, they used lucid dreamers. Lucid dreamers are aware when they are in the middle of a dream and they can change the dream or control it. Some research says this is a skill that can be developed. The UK study used both lucid dreamers and dreamers who were not lucid to examine if dreams can solve a task.
5. The Tasks given the Lucid and non-lucid dreamers included logical tasks and creative tasks. The tasks were given to the participants before they went to sleep to memorize – but not solve. The logical tasks asked the dreamers to give factual information to answer a question. The creative task was to come up with a metaphor. The lucid dreamers where asked to solve the problem in a dream, wake themselves up and write down the answer. The non-lucid dreamers were asked to recount their most vivid dream when they woke up. The conclusion? Lucid dreamers were more able to solve the creative problem in their dreams, but there was no difference in the two groups when it came to solving the logical problems. Does this tally with the more active TPJ and MPFC activity and the wakefulness? More research is on the way.
Think about your dreams. It’s interesting to know that people dream differently and that science is still trying to explain why. Make sure you get that deep REM sleep that facilitates dreaming by making sure your mattress is comfortable. You may find the mattress you’re dreaming of sleeping on in a most unexpected place – the Internet. Affordable, with long trial periods and a full refund if you’re not happy, a latex mattress from Amazon or an Internet dealer may mean sweet dreams.