Research Round 1- Why do we dream?

Hey everyone, this is my first research round for this cycle with my question “Why do we dream?” This research round, I will be looking into what dreams are and the whole process of dreaming and what happens in our brain while we dream.


What is a dream?

Dreams are imagery and images we receive while in certain stages of sleep(1,2,5,7). There are no limits of what we dream. Dreams can literally be anything and there is no expectation of what to dream. Majority of the time, dreams occur during REM sleep. (1)

Image result for person sleeping

What is REM sleep?

Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) occurs about 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep, non- REM sleep being first. (1,4)Your muscles are also paralyzed during REM sleep, which is why some people may get sleep paralysis, but I’ll be looking more into that in future research round.(5) You cycle between the two multiple times when you sleep, however REM sleep is usually significantly shorter than non REM sleep but everytime you go through the cycle, REM sleep does get longer each time. During REM sleep, your eyes move quickly in different directions. REM sleep is the deepest stage of sleep and it makes up approximately 20-25% of our sleep but can be up to 50% of a baby or young child’s sleep. It occurs a few times while we sleep, times ranging anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.(1,3,4,5)

Like I already mentioned, dreams can literally be anything. There isn't any limit to what your brain can create or experience during a dream.  Dreams can include people in your life, people you've never met, places you've been or never been and just even more endless possibilities. They can even be things that have already happened for real in your life, maybe in the exact same way your brain remembers, or maybe different or with a twist. They can also include your deepest and darkest fears and secrets. Some dreams can literally make no sense at all and you may think there is no reason or purpose behind a dream; which is the case a lot of the time. But sometimes even the most ridiculous dreams can have some purpose. Stresses in your own life can show in your dreams, they are just cleverly disguised by some imagery. (1,2)

Image result for rem sleep

What happens in the brain while we dream?

Our whole brain is active during dreams. Surprisingly, though it might not seem like it, your brain is almost as active during REM sleep as it is while you’re awake. (5)  Although your whole brain plays a part while you dream, the limbic system in particular is one of the most active parts of your brain while you dream. (5,6,8)

What is the limbic system?

The limbic system is part of the brain where emotions and memories are processed. The main parts of the limbic system are the amygdala, the hippocampus, and thecingulate gyrus.(5,6,8)  The amygdala is the link between a stimulus and how you react to that stimulus. It gets information from your senses and reacts. For an example, if you taste a food that you don’t particularly enjoy, yourr amygdala gives you the feeling of disgust. It controls your emotions and feelings. The hippocampus is responsible for your memory, both short term and long term. Using the previous example, the hippocampus learns that experience of you finding that food disgusting and then replays it repeatedly to the cerebral cortex, another part of the brain.  That is what creates long term memory. The cingulate gyrus is partly responsible for your physical reactions to situations. It recognizes which part your body is stimulated just by touch and controls your muscle movement. (5,8)

Image result for limbic system

Like mentioned earlier, during REM sleep, your brain is almost as active as it is during the day. During that time, your brain is also in the process of “cleaning itself” up. Doing that prevents the buildup of toxic by-products. If the brain didn’t do that, the toxic by-products would keep piling up and cause problems such as the trademark plaques of Alzheimer's. That is one of the many reasons why it is so important to have a good quality sleep.(5)

During REM sleep, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that deals with logic and self control, is way less active during REM sleep. That could be the reason that sometimes our dreams don’t make any sense at all and are so disorganized. (5)











Pictures(in order of which the picture is placed in my research)





In my next research round, I will be covering the following:

-What are different kinds of dreams?(such as lucid dreams, nightmare, daydreams, etc.)

-Do certain types of dreams have different meanings?

- The memory of dreams( like why do sometimes we remember them and sometimes we don’t)

If you have any comments, ideas, questions or anything, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading. 


Original Post

Hello Rhea

This seems like a very interesting topic that you have here, and I truly am curious to see where your research leads to. I also like how you looked into the specific parts of the brain and their effect when we sleep, and how they are important, rather then just the brain as a whole; I also like the use of a picture showing the anatomy of the brain as I have no clue where any of the parts were located. I was also thinking it might e of help to look into how it’s thought that our brain actually creates the objects and scenarios in our mind, cause there was this thing I heard that when we dream none of the faces we saw are new, that we’ve seen them all at one point or another possibly while walking down the street. Though does seem unlikely, but maybe it’s possible that the faces are based off of characteristics that we have seen before, but in the case of nightmares blown up? Best of luck though with the next round, I look forward to reading it.


Here are some sites that might help when looking into dreams:

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