The Purpose of Dreaming

dreamSince early history man has been fascinated with the occurrence of dreams. Before the means for dream research existed, people theorized as to the meaning of dreams and why we have them. Ninteenth and 20th century European psychoanalysts expanded on theories put forth by philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, defining the function of dreaming as a safe way to act out our unconscious desires. When people recall their dreams, however, they don’t seem to plausibly fit any particular theory as of yet, and even today we are not sure why we dream. In today’s sleep blog, your Livonia, MI dentist, Dr. James Stewart talks about the purpose of dreaming.


In regards to dreams, why we dream and what they mean may still elude us, but one thing we know for certain is that most human beings dream nearly every night of their lives. Since it has been possible to conduct dream research, we’ve learned that our brains continue to be active even during sleep and that our most vivid dreams take place in the deepest stage of sleep–REM. REM sleep was termed “paradoxical sleep” by one researcher because although our brain activity resembles that of wakefulness, our muscles are paralyzed, preventing us from acting out our dreams.

The Importance of Dreaming

During a research study conducted in 1960, research subjects were awoken just as they began dreaming during REM sleep.  The importance of dreaming to our psychological well-being was realized upon documenting the results. For instance, when the subjects were deprived of dreaming they:

  • Became irritable
  • Were tense
  • Were anxious
  • Had difficulty concentrating
  • Experienced weight gain due to an increase in appetite
  • Experienced lack of coordination
  • Felt depersonalized
  • Had feelings of emptiness
  • Experienced hallucinations

More Theories

Through research it has become known that during sleep large amounts of neuronal activity occurs. Neuroscientists believe that neural activity is the physical basis for thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. One theory is that dreams are simply a result of firing neurons and are, therefore, random and purposeless.

However, Rosalind Cartwright, Professor and Chairman, of the Department of Psychology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, suggests that dreams are the way we incorporate memories, deal with our emotions, and solve problems, all essential for maintaining our emotional health.

About Your Livonia MI Dentist Dr. Stewart

James R. Stewart, Jr, DDS, PC and our compassionate staff proudly serve patients of all ages from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. If you think you or a loved one is dealing with a sleep disorder, call our office today at (734) 425-4400, to schedule an appointment. At Dental sleep Medicine of Michigan, we are committed to forming trusting relationships with our patients so we can work together to achieve sound treatment and a future full of restful nights.

Source: In Your Dreams. National Sleep Foundation. <>.