Why do we dream when we sleep?

Y. SAI JAYANTH REDDY, Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh

There are various theories — medical as well as metaphysical — as to why we get dreams. Sleep has two parts, non REM sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Dreams occur in the latter stage of sleep, that is, REM sleep also known as paradoxical sleep.

It is paradoxical in the sense that although we are sleeping, still the metabolic activity of our brain is comparable to that of the awake state and our eyes are moving as if following a scene. This scene is actually a dream. So that we do not enact our dreams, our skeletal muscles are paralyzed during dreaming.

Dreams serve an important purpose. They allow us to confront situations that may/may not occur in our daily lives and we do not have to experience them in reality to learn them. Dreaming is actually a learning behaviour where we exercise our brain. That is why dreams constitute the most bizarre chronologies ever. That is why a new born spends more proportion of his sleep dreaming than an elderly person. Also dreams consist of visual perceptions mostly.

We usually don’t hear people talking or smell things during dreams. This is principally because the blood supply to the visual centre of our brain is greatly increased during dreaming.

Some people also believe that dreaming is an essential part of developing a reflex action. It is also theorised that we dream about things that we are thinking about just before going to sleep.

So it is kind of building upon that thought process and exploring various possibilities to it while in the dream state. This dream can allow us to reach the most bizarre consequences of our thought process and help us take better decisions. In a disorder called REM sleep behaviour disorder, people start enacting their dreams which become dangerous for the patient as well as the bed partner. In the end it suffices to say that dreams serve an important purpose in the development of human behaviour and those who do not dream have behaviour abnormalities.


MBBS Student, AIIMS, New Delhi

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