Dream is a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep.
Humans spend about two hours dreaming per night, and each dream lasts around 5 to 20 minutes.
Symbols are the language of dreams. A symbol can invoke a feeling or an idea and often has a much more profound and deeper meaning than any one word can convey. At the same time, these symbols can leave you confused and wondering what that dream was all about.
Dream interpretation is the process of assigning meaning to dreams. Although associated with some forms of psychotherapy, there is no reliable evidence that understanding or interpreting dreams has a positive impact on one’s mental health.
Dreams occur mainly in the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep—when brain activity is high and resembles that of being awake. Because REM sleep is detectable in many species, and because research suggests that all mammals experience REM, linking dreams to REM sleep has led to conjectures that animals dream. However, humans dream during non-REM sleep, also, and not all REM awakenings elicit dream reports.
Dreaming has throughout human history given rise to myriad beliefs, fears, and conjectures, both imaginative and experimental, regarding its mysterious nature.
While any effort toward classification must be subject to inadequacies, beliefs about dreams nonetheless fall into various classifications depending upon whether dreams are held to be reflections of reality, sources of divination, curative experiences, or evidence of unconscious activity.
The human dream experience and what to make of it have undergone sizable shifts over the course of history.
Preserved writings from early Mediterranean civilizations indicate a relatively abrupt change in subjective dream experience between Bronze Age antiquity and the beginnings of the classical era.
In visitation dreams reported in ancient writings, dreamers were largely passive in their dreams, and visual content served primarily to frame authoritative auditory messaging. Gudea, the king of the Sumerian city-state of Lagash (reigned c. 2144–2124 BC), rebuilt the temple of Ningirsu as the result of a dream in which he was told to do so. After antiquity, the passive hearing of visitation dreams largely gave way to visualized narratives in which the dreamer becomes a character who actively participates.
The standard Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh contains numerous accounts of the prophetic power of dreams. First, Gilgamesh himself has two dreams foretelling the arrival of Enkidu. In one of these dreams, Gilgamesh sees an axe fall from the sky. The people gather around it in admiration and worship. Gilgamesh throws the axe in front of his mother Ninsun and then embraces it like a wife. Ninsun interprets the dream to mean that someone powerful will soon appear. Gilgamesh will struggle with him and try to overpower him, but he will not succeed. Eventually, they will become close friends and accomplish great things. She concludes, “That you embraced him like a wife means he will never forsake you. Thus your dream is solved.” Later in the epic, Enkidu dreams about the heroes’ encounter with the giant Humbaba.
The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883–859 BC) built a temple to Mamu, possibly the god of dreams, at Imgur-Enlil, near Kalhu. The later Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (reigned 668–c. 627 BC) had a dream during a desperate military situation in which his divine patron, the goddess Ishtar, appeared to him and promised that she would lead him to victory. The Babylonians and Assyrians divided dreams into “good,” which were sent by the gods, and “bad,” sent by demons.
In ancient Egypt, priests acted as dream interpreters. Hieroglyphics depicting dreams and their interpretations are evident. Dreams have been held in considerable importance through history by most cultures.
The ancient Greeks constructed temples they called Asclepieions, where sick people were sent to be cured. It was believed that cures would be effected through divine grace by incubating dreams within the confines of the temple. Dreams were also considered prophetic or omens of particular significance.
In Judaism, dreams are considered part of the experience of the world that can be interpreted and from which lessons can be garnered. It is discussed in the Talmud, Tractate Berachot 55–60.
Christians mostly shared the beliefs of the Hebrews and thought that dreams were of a supernatural character because the Old Testament includes frequent stories of dreams with divine inspiration. The most famous of these dream stories was Jacob’s dream of a ladder that stretches from Earth to Heaven. Many Christians preach that God can speak to people through their dreams. The famous glossary, the Somniale Danielis, written in the name of Daniel, attempted to teach Christian populations to interpret their dreams.
In the 17th century, the English physician and writer Sir Thomas Browne wrote a short tract upon the interpretation of dreams.
Dream interpretation was taken up as part of psychoanalysis at the end of the 19th century – the perceived, manifest content of a dream is analyzed to reveal its latent meaning to the psyche of the dreamer. One of the seminal works on the subject is The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud.
From the 1940s to 1985, Calvin S. Hall collected more than 50,000 dream reports at Western Reserve University. In the Hall study, the most common emotion experienced in dreams was anxiety. Other emotions included abandonment, anger, fear, joy, and happiness.
People who are blind from birth do not have visual dreams. Their dream contents are related to other senses like hearing, touch, smell and taste, whichever are present since birth.