Let’s take a look at sleep first of all and then move on to dreams and why they exist.
As we enter sleep, our brain waves slow down (to alpha waves) and we enter the twilight between sleep and wakefulness. As sleep progresses, we pass into slower brain waves (theta waves) and enter a light to medium sleep. Then we enter deep sleep (delta waves). After that, we pass into the phase that contains the dreaming, the REM or rapid eye movement state.
Light sleep is about half of our sleep cycle, so you’d imagine that it was an important part of sleep. In fact, this is where we start to encode memories and our creativity is boosted at this time too.
Deep sleep is highly restorative for the body and at this time, repairs and healing can be carried out. Interestingly, the brain also undergoes a wash cycle – the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal column, the cerebrospinal fluid, is flushed so that waste products are removed. This is vital to the health of our nervous system.
During REM sleep, memory is enhanced, as well as learning and problem-solving. This was initially thought to be the main reason for dreaming: to enable us to make sense of the world and its challenges – however, we shall see that this is only part of the story. With heart and respiratory rates and brain activity increasing, it’s a very active stage of sleep, however, our body is made immobile, except for the odd twitches and jerks. This prevents us from acting out our dreams. (Note that sleepwalking occurs in deeper modes of sleep; people who act out their dreams have a condition where the muscles do not go into atonia or relaxation.)
So why is REM sleep so crucial? And what happens if we don’t get enough of it?
Dreams during REM are there to resolve any problems we had during the course of the day. If we don’t get a resolution (and it can be simply a feeling of not having completed something, not necessarily a problem), then the mind tries to find a solution during the dreams.
Why does this matter?
I often say that the unconscious mind hates untied shoelaces. These unfinished things, things that weren’t said, emotions that weren’t expressed and jobs left undone all go into the unconscious. You’ll feel uncomfortable until these things are resolved.
This is also why you may have recurring dreams: you have a recurring event or circumstance that needs looking into.
When our sleep is interrupted such that we’re deprived of REM sleep, we become prone to anxiety and find concentration difficult as the mind searches for solutions.
Take this dream for example. I was walking through a village I knew well in the dream, but don’t know in real life. I enjoyed walking up a hill just outside the village, when the incline became too much for me. Cars were passing me on the dirt track. One of the cars stopped and inside was a group of people from different times in my life, they said jump in, enjoy the views, we’re going up to the top.
This part of the dream was easy to analyse. I had such a full schedule at the time, I was wondering how I would fit everything in. I wanted to help my clients and trainees, yet I was finding my energy was dropping lower and lower. Suddenly a friend and trainee whom I was training needed to take a break. I felt bad that she might not qualify as soon as she wanted and was trying to figure out ways to make it work. The dream was telling me to let go (get in the car) and enjoy the break (enjoy the views).
If there are deeper issues such as negative emotions, negative thoughts and beliefs, they may install themselves into the unconscious and act like malware in a computer system. Slowing the mind down and making life feel heavy and difficult.
You’ll also find that you may ‘project’ these unconscious feelings. For example, let’s say someone says something hurtful to you. You feel angry, but because this person is your boss or someone with a little power, you feel unable to tell them what you think.
Your emotion gets stifled and goes into your unconscious. But you will project it unbeknownst to you. This means you get angry at the slightest thing, you’ll ‘find’ more to be angry about.
So what’s the answer?
As best you can, resolve the issues of the day. Write them down and write down your options (even if they’re not pleasant). Watch your dreams to see what’s not resolved. Learn to interpret your dreams, not from internet interpretations, but what has happened to you during the day. Remember, your unanswered mind questions, may even be from a film you didn’t see the end of!
And why don’t we remember all of our dreams?
Well, the amount of information would ‘corrupt’ our memory files! We’d end up not knowing what really happened or happened in a dream! so dreams fade quite quickly to maintain the integrity of our memories. It’s also good that our dreams are really metaphors for events and thoughts so that again, they don’t enter into our memories as reality.
In summary, as a mindset coach and therapist, it’s the repressed emotions, beliefs and values that form the largest part of my work. If we can learn to find solutions and resolutions and pay attention to our untied shoelaces, by paying more attention to what our dreams are saying, we learn to shape our mental health for the better.
If you want to resolve issues such as repressed emotions, negative thoughts, anxieties, trauma, limiting decisions and beliefs, why not book a complimentary strategy call? Click here to book. alternatively, you may want to research Time Line Therapy®️, a gentle set of techniques where no re-living of past events is necessary and you can release emotions and beliefs easily and gently.