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Why do I dream? – ‘The Why’

Welcome to the latest edition of The Why.

Everywhere you look the media is pushing you telling you who to follow, what to watch and when to watch it.   You’re even sometimes told how to do it all.  Truth is, here at American Live Wire we do a bit of that too.  The big difference is we also tell you why.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

“Why do I dream?”

“Why do I dream?” you ask?

It takes more than two degrees and some Googling to answer the question “Why do I dream?”.  Dream studies have been performed for decades and researchers are still having trouble answering the question “Why do I dream?”


Still, one certainty gleaned from trying to answer the question “Why do I dream?” is that there are some popular theories that appear on almost everyone’s list of answers whether it be 500 Dreams Interpreted,  “How Stuff Works”, MIT, Psychology Today or Freud himself.  For the sake of argument, we will call them Wish Fulfillment, Evolution and the Creation of Wisdom.

Wish FulfillmentFreud had a popular albeit limited theory.  He proposed that every dream was a visualization of an unconscious wish.  People were doing things in their dreams they could not do in real life.  (“In your dreams!”  “You wish!”)   The great things people did in their dreams were nothing more than wish fulfillment.  That worked for great dreams but not, however, for dull dreams or nightmares.  Thus research continued to find other answers.

EvolutionDreams often have a sense of urgency to them.  A Finnish cognitive scientist, Antti Revonsuo, discovered that the amygdale or “fight-or-flight” portion of the brain is abnormally active when one is in REM sleep.  This is the time in which people dream.

While in REM sleep your brain acts much in the same way it does when it is threatened for survival.  Revonsuo also learned that the portion of the brain that runs motor activity such as running and punching is also more active during REM sleep (although the actual limbs remain motionless).  This led him to agree with evolutionary theorists who say people practice fight-and-flight responses even if they do not actually move.  We dream in order to rehearse self-defense actions in the comparative “safety of nighttime isolation” in order to improve our fight-or-flight responses in real life.

Creation of Wisdom:  Another popular theory is that our brains would not properly function if we would remember every mental image we take in during our lives.  This theory proposes that we dream in order to sort through all our memories and “defrag” our brains.   The brain is picking and choosing what you should remember and what you should forget via your dreams.

A researcher at MIT‘s Center for Learning and Memory, Matt Wilson, tested rats in a maze and noted which neurons fired in what patterns.  Later he studied the rodents’ neuron patterns as they went into REM sleep.  He determined that the rats were dreamed about important moments in their day.  He also believes that our dreams convert our daily data into “wisdom” or the information that makes us intelligent so that we may know what to do when faced with decisions in the future.  This is the last of the most popular theories behind our dreaming.

“Why do I dream?”  Now you know.

(Now you know the most popular theories.  Until next time, dream on . . .)

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

American Live Wire . . . Listen and be heard.

“Why do I dream?”

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About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.