Outdated Myths Everyone Still Believes about Dreams

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Briullov,_Karl_-_A_Dream_of_a_Girl_Before_a_Sunrise1. That if you die while asleep, you will die for real.
There’s an old urban legend that if you die while asleep and dreaming, you can die in real life. However, according to the International Association for the Study of Dreams, this is simply not true and many people have in fact died in their dreams and yet lived to tell about it. A death while dreaming should be interpreted just as any other dream event, with the frequent interpretation being that a death while dreaming symbolizes an ending or transition, possibly some inner changes, transformation, self-discovery or even a symbol of a positive development in your life.

2. That dreaming is a passive activity and you cannot influence your dreams.
The commonly-held belief is that sleep is a period of rest in which the body recharges, but it is actually an active state within the brain, comprised of a regular pattern of processes every night. Some physiological processes even increase while we are sleeping. This includes the endocrine system and some brain activities. And within sleep experiments, techniques to influence and even control our own dreams have been proven. Some applications for this have been to instigate problem-solving within dreams and to stop nightmares or change their outcomes. There is even evidence that by manipulating the sensory stimuli around another sleeping person may influence their dreams. This is particularly true with auditory messages. For instance, running water or another person’s voice in real life will often be incorporated into another’s dream.

3. That dreaming happens only during the REM cycle.

Most people still believe that dreaming only occurs during the deepest stage of sleep, called REM, or rapid eye movement. However, this simply isn’t the case. Dreaming happens at any stage of the sleep cycle, however it is still the most common time in which dreams occur. The reason for this is that during this cycle, the brain’s cortex seems to be as active as it is when we are awake, causing bursts of activity in the brain stem. Additionally, it seems that dreams that occur during non-REM sleep appear to not have the same level of intensity as dreams that occur during REM.

4. That dreaming is a useless activity.
It is often just assumed that since dreaming occurs while you are asleep, there is no value in it or real purpose for it. It turns out that REM sleep and dreaming help with functions such as memory consolidation, wish fulfillment and stimulating the nervous system during development or building neural connections.

5. That drinking alcohol leads to a deeper sleep and less dreams.
Many individuals believe that if they drink alcohol it will lead to a much deeper sleep with fewer dreams and restlessness. However, drinking actually disrupts your entire sleep cycle and leaves you with restless dreaming. Drinking also increases the likelihood of vivid dreams too, which can be extremely pleasurable but equally as terrifying. This occurs when the alcohol begins to wear off and our brain tries to compensate the previous restlessness by attempting one long REM session, called REM rebound. These dreams can be so vivid they can even cause hyperventilation upon waking!

6. That dreams don’t happen in real time.
Many think that time is compressed in dreams and that minutes or even hours of activities can be dreamed within seconds. However, it turns out that dream time lengths for activities seem to mirror the amount of time it would take in real life. This was confirmed by William Dement, a sleep research who composed two different studies looking at dream time versus real time.

7. That nightmares are about fear.
The emotion most commonly associated with nightmares is fear, therefore it makes sense to believe that fear causes nightmares and its common knowledge that you shouldn’t do anything scary before bedtime-like watching a horror film-unless you want nightmares. However it turns out that experiencing nightmares can commonly just be a manifestation of other feelings such as failure, worry, confusion, sadness and guilt. Other causes could include unresolved conflict, stress and anxiety. Even things like food allergies and late-night snacking have been shown to contribute to nightmares.

8. That dreams are sporadic.

Since most people cannot remember all of their dreams, the thought is that there might only be one or two a night. However, it turns out that average adults dream a total of about an hour and a half to 3 hours every night, meaning that by the time we die, most of us will have spent about 6 years of our life dreaming!

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References :


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