There are times in life when we experience the ever dreaded state of stress overload. Western society is fast-paced with rarely any time to “stop and smell the roses.” All of us have responsibilities such as jobs, money, relationships, children, health… and we are trying to balance all of those things while going at what seems like a thousand miles per hour.
I find that when I am experiencing a stress overload, my dreams are, simply put, strange. They are plotless, silly, extremely vivid, and, sometimes, so overwhelming that I have to wonder if I am crazy. After chatting with a few acquaintances, I realized that I am not alone in this experience—there are others that feel, during stressful times, their dreams are making them go insane too!
So, I wonder, why is it that many of us experience these senseless nocturnal dramas when we are already dealing with so much drama during our days? Though some of us feel our brain may be torturing us with more things to analyze and mull over when we’re already so busy, stress-induced dreams may actually be helping us.
While different stages make up sleep, we only dream for a short period of the night. Dreams occur for a little over two hours during a state that most of us know as REM (Rapid Eye Movement). According to an article on the science of sleep from NIND, during REM sleep, signals are sent to the regions of the brain responsible for learning and categorizing information. REM sleep is so important that studies have shown that people who are deprived of REM sleep have trouble with learning a new skill while those who are not deprived of it have no trouble.
Sigmund Freud was the first in the scientific field to propose that, rather than being a random occurrence, dreams had an actual function which he referred to as a “safety valve” for the unconsciousness. By being a safety valve, Freud meant that dreams help our mind regain some control over what it does not understand. Dreams may seem like a nonsensical adventure of seeing a faceless person with two heads as you walk through a neon forest and then, somehow, you’re floating in the ocean on a giant dog (wait, that just may be me?); but it’s actually your brain, in some strange way, trying to process and understand information in your life that you cannot during your waking day.
It’s odd to say but the after thinking about it, the more bizarre my dreams, the more I do tent to feel better. Dreams are therapy for our unconsciousness. Our unconscious brain is healing our consciousness by making sense of the misunderstood in our life even if we don’t realize it. It’s a safety mechanism. So don’t stress over the meaning of last night’s peculiar dream. Your brain, even if you don’t know it, is figuring it out for you.