What is the purpose of dreaming? Dreaming’s subjective nature makes it difficult to quantify and study. Everyone has an understanding of dreaming from personal experience. Could dreaming be meaningless brain function or does it serve a purpose?
I have had one theme come up time and time again in my dreams—nuclear explosions. Reoccurring dreams are a common phenomenon experienced by many, but if I believed in the fortune-telling abilities of dreams, I would be severely paranoid by now. I don’t believe that nukes are going to start dropping just because I dreamed about them. Perhaps I have an underlying fear of total annihilation or feel overwhelmed by different aspects of my life. To get away from the psychoanalytic side of dreams, there are some researchers who believe dreaming serves a purpose of rehearsing dangerous situations mentally. This would explain why dangerous situations occur so frequently in dreams. If we are used to at least experiencing them in our dream state, we may be better prepared to face them in our waking life.
The movie Waking Life by Richard Linklater is about a young man navigating a dream in which he cannot seem to escape. That is where the “Dream is Destiny” lines comes from in the title of this post. He continually experiences “false awakenings” and realizes he is still dreaming. I have also experienced false awakenings in the form of sleep paralysis. Waking Life discusses philosophy and dreaming in an entertaining rotoscoped landscape. One paradox that the movie introduces is the possibility of the brain activity at death (with dreams having the ability to be subjectively infinite), which last a couple of minutes, could actually be the events of our lives we are experiencing RIGHT NOW. A more probable idea is when death occurs, but the brain is still active, large amounts of DMT might be released and may cause the intense visions and dreams that many people who experience near-death experiences go through.
Another possibility is that the minuscule amount of DMT housed in our brains is released when we sleep and causes us to dream. I would be interested to see a comparison of brain waves in a person in REM sleep and someone under the influence of DMT.
One last fun fact: sleep paralysis is real and I have personally experienced it several times. One time I dreamt that I woke up, but was then thrown off the bed by an invisible demon and couldn’t breathe from being choked-out by said demon. I couldn’t yell for help because I couldn’t move at all. My mind has a wonderful imagination—nukes and demons—very colorful, eh? The explanation is that I “woke up” and was aware of my surroundings, but was still in a dreaming (ie: REM) state. I woke up on the floor next to my bed, wrapped like a burrito in my bedsheets. It makes sense why I felt constricted, although the footprints on my floor made me think it wasn’t just a dream…