Everyone knows how important it is to get adequate sleep nowadays—we’ve all seen that getting enough sleep is linked to decreased stress, heart disease, and other health disorders. But what about the importance of dreaming? Recent research suggests that dreaming may be more important than ever thought previously—dreaming has been linked with the organization of data, consolidation of memory, integration of skills, and the regulation of psychological functioning. Even if you are one of those people who doesn’t remember his or her dreams—or swears that he or she doesn’t dream—the average person dreams at least 6 separate dreams per night for a lifetime total of approximately of 6 years of dreaming.
Most dreams occur during REM sleep (approximately 80% of dreams) and these dreams are often quite long and extremely vivid. These are the dreams that cause you to wake and think about how strange that dream was. Oftentimes these dreams are highly emotional and full of symbols and meaning. REM dreams are the way in which the body and mind deals with understanding and regulating emotion, adapting to stress, integrating trauma, accessing creative associations, as well as to maintain a sense of self and personality.
Did you know that there are also non-REM dreams? These dreams are primarily concerned with learned facts, skills, and experiences. These are the sort of dreams you may have if you’ve ever crammed for a test and then spend (what feels like) all night going through test answers in your dreams. These sort of dreams are used for the brain to sort through all the newly learned facts and figures in a given day and decide which are important and should be remembered and which are unimportant and should be discarded.
Most people think only about REM dreams and often disregard non-REM dreams but they are very important part of the way that our bodies and minds deal with our experiences and lives.