Dreaming LifeDreaming Life

Find out more about dreams and sleep by learning these 11 fascinating facts.

1. People everywhere share the same dreams.

The American psychologist Calvin Hall studied dream reports of more than 50,000 people from all over the world, and found that while their dreams reveal some cultural differences, they tend to be very similar.

2.  A Greek man named Artemidorus wrote the first dream dictionary.

His work, the Oneirocritica, contains a dream dictionary and instructions for interpreting dreams. Modern dream dictionaries still use some of his interpretations.

[caption id="attachment-1006" align="alignleft" width="300"]Śpiący Staś, by Stanisław Wyspiański Śpiący Staś, by Stanisław Wyspiański[/caption]

Artemidorus thought your dreams are your mind's way of interpreting images that your soul creates when it moves.

3. Not all ancient people thought that gods or spirits created dreams.

The ancient Greeks thought that dreams originated from within the dreamer.

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician.  thought that that interpreting a patient's dreams could help you understand the physical cause of their suffering.

4. Sigmund Freud was the first person to say that the unconscious affects dreams.

Freud thought that you could solve problems in waking life by understanding your dreams, which would help you understand your unconscious. He developed the method of interpreting dreams by free association.

5. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the stage of sleep most commonly associated with dreaming. However, you can dream during all stages of sleep.

Dreams that occur during REM sleep tend to be more vivid than dreams that occur during other stages of sleep. However, that isn't a universal rule. You can have vivid dreams during non-REM (NREM)

Although dreaming and REM sleep often take place at the same time, they originate in different areas of brain. Some people with brain damage dream but don't have REM sleep, while others have REM sleep but don't dream.

6. REM sleep is necessary for life.

Rats that are deprived of REM sleep, but still allowed to experience the other stages of sleep, will die in about five weeks.

7. During a lucid dream, you're awake and asleep at the same time.

Parts of your brain that are normally active only when your awake are still active during a lucid dream. These include regions of the brain that you use to think about yourself and to think about thinking.

8. Scientists can prove if someone is having a lucid dream.

A scientist can ask a lucid dreamer in a sleep laboratory to move their eyes in a dream or to dream about writing something. If they dream about moving their eyes, their eyes will move. If they dream about writing, their hand muscles will twitch.

The dreamer is hooked up to an EEG, so the scientist knows that the dreamer is in REM sleep and isn't faking.

9. "Alien abductions" are probably cases of sleep paralysis.

During REM sleep, most of your body is paralyzed.  Sleep paralysis occurs when you become conscious but haven't fully awoken from REM sleep. You are aware of your surroundings, but you still can't move.

Because your breathing changes naturally during REM sleep, when you have an attack of sleep paralysis, you may feel like you are suffocating. You may think that someone is choking you or sitting on your chest, crushing it so you can't breathe.

The part of your brain that makes you feel afraid can become very active during sleep paralysis. This can make you feel terrified. You may hallucinate that an evil monster, demon or alien is in the room watching you or that they are trying to hurt you.

10. You can make someone have an out of body experience by stimulating a certain part of the brain.

Doctors have accidently caused people to have out of body experiences by stimulating a region of the brain called the temporoparietal junction.

11. People who have trouble falling asleep or waking up on time could have circadian rhythm disorders.

If you have a circadian rhythm disorder, your body clock is different from that of most people. Your body wants to go to sleep when everyone else says you're supposed to be awake, and it wants to stay awake when people tell you that you should be asleep.

You may think you have insomnia, or other people may think you're lazy, but if you let yourself sleep when your body wants and stay awake when your body wants, you'll have just as much energy and be as productive as anyone else is.