10 Unbelievable Facts About Dreams!

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Dreams are one of the most popular research topics among scientists. The study of dreams is called oneirology and every year many academic papers are published in the field regarding many topics, including the content and purpose of our dreams. Yet, we still have a long way to go in order to be able to explain them perfectly. There is one thing for sure, though, dreams have a huge impact on our thoughts and emotions.

So here are 10 amazing facts about dreams, which were originally listed on Listverse:

Source: http://listverse.com/2009/10/11/10-more-...

10. Brain is Active When Dreaming

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Using EEG technology, tremendous variation in brain activity during sleep was observed. By looking at these variations, 5 stages of sleep were identified by scientists. Stages 1-4 and a final stage labeled rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Subjects who were awakened during REM sleep reported that they were dreaming. Developments in the brain imaging technologies made it possible for us to learn a lot about REM sleep and scientists found out that certain areas of the brain are extremely active during the REM sleep state, even more active than being awake.

9. Animals and Dreams

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We’re still not sure if animals dream the way we do, but research show that, for example, all mammals including dogs and cats, enter a state of REM sleep. Frederic Snyder argued that many mammals wake-up immediately after entering into REM sleep and that was a sort of defense mechanism. Also, many birds show signs of REM sleep, but reptiles and other cold-blooded animals don’t.

8. Marijuana and Dreams

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Many people who smoke marijuana say that they don’t dream at all, but after they quit, they report extremely vivid and intense dreams. As usual, these dreams take place during REM sleep. Therefore, the question is whether marijuana (THC) affect REM sleep.  A study conducted in 1975 compared the sleep patterns of marijuana users with non-smokers. The results showed reduced eye movement activity and less REM sleep in the THC condition. Also, they reported more REM activity after they quit smoking marijuana.

7. Epic Dreams

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Epic dreams are extremely vivid and can be life changing. These dreams can also generate a greater awareness of your natural surroundings. After you awake from an epic dream, it’s possible to have a fresh and new perspective on your life. They can remain with you for years.  People who experience these types of dreams often report a continuous storyline that constitutes an entirely different and ongoing life.

6. Gender Differences in Dreams

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A study showed that women dream of both genders equally, yet 67% of the time, the characters in men’s dreams are predominantly male. Also, Women’s dreams tend to last longer and include more emotional content whereas men’s dreams are reported to include more violence, cars, and roads. On average, 8% of people’s dreams include sexual activity. The most distinct part is, while women dream about familiar or domestic places, the opposite is true for men.

5. Sleep Paralysis

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Sleep Paralysis is directly related to REM sleep and dreaming. Sleep paralysis corresponds with REM atonia, which is the state of paralysis that occurs during REM sleep. A person experiences sleep paralysis when the brain awakens from the REM sleep cycle, but the paralysis state remains. The person is conscious, but unable to move. They continue to dream and in many cases can visually experience their dreams too. A person experiencing sleep paralysis is not fully conscious, but well aware of what is happening. The experience has been described as distorted tunnel vision. The paralysis state may be accompanied by extreme hallucinations and a sense of danger. Many historical claims of alien abduction have been explained by extreme cases of sleep paralysis.

4. Nightmares vs. Night Terrors

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Ernest Hartmann’s work has indicated that the most common theme of a nightmare is being chased. While adults are commonly chased by a male figure, children face animals or fantasy creatures. Nightmares are less common in adults, and children experience them mostly between the ages of three or four and seven or eight. About 5-1O% of people have nightmares once a month or more. Hartmann argued that nightmares directly correlate with daily activities and are an indicator of fear or anxiety that needs to be confronted. Some common triggers can be drug abuse, traumatic events, or the loss of a loved one. Night terrors are quite different from nightmares. They occur during the first hours of sleep and during the non-rapid eye cycle. Loud screaming and thrashing is common. The sleeper is hard to wake and usually remembers no more than an overwhelming feeling or a single scene. Night terrors are much less common than nightmares. Children from the ages of two to six are most prone to night terrors, and they affect about 15% of all children.

3. Famous Dreams

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Sometimes, dreams can be life changing. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein after having a dream about a monster. “I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.” Also, Elias Howe, who was a sewing machine pioneer, said that he was influenced by a vivid dream before making a major innovation in mechanical sewing possible.
James Watson, who was one of the scientists who discovered the structure of DNA reported that the idea came to him after dreaming of a series of spiral staircases. Another one was Abraham Lincoln. He claims to have been told by a soldier that the president had been assassinated in his dream.

2. Chronic Snoring Can Lead to Sleep Disorder

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People who experience chronic snoring are usually suffering from a REM sleep disorder. During REM sleep these people experience irregular breathing, a rise in blood pressure, vivid dreams, and paralysis. People who snore regularly do dream, but don’t remember them as others and often develop a REM sleep disorder. They don’t experience any kind of paralysis when they sleep, so the absence of this paralysis causes many people to physically act out their dreams. Such physical behaviors often include talking, yelling, punching, kicking, jumping out of bed, arm flailing, and even grabbing. The person remains asleep while acting out their dreams and don’t remember the activity or dream the next day.

1. Vivid Dreams Help You Learn

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REM sleep begins when signals are broadcasted from the base of the brain, an area called the pons. The pons distributes signals to the thalamus, which directs them towards the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is the area of the brain responsible for learning, thinking, and organizing information. The pons also sends signals that shut off the neurons in the spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis during REM sleep. REM sleep activates the area of the brain that we use for learning. This may be an extremely important factor in normal brain development during infancy. It may explain why children spend much more time in REM sleep than adults. Besides, REM sleep is associated with increased protein in the brain. Studies show that REM sleep and learning mental skills are connected. Separate groups of people were taught the same skill and a larger percentage of individuals who fell into REM sleep during the night were able to recall the skill the next day. This theory is called the Ontogenetic Hypothesis of REM sleep.

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