Since time immemorial, dreams have been a source of enigma for human beings. We have always been curious about our dreams. For many years, humanity wasn’t sure if the scenes that paraded through their minds at night were real or not. Over several centuries, they were given a magical, or mystical explanation, always associating them with a reality that was beyond comprehension.
Greek mythology is very eloquent when it comes to this subject. For the ancient Greeks the god Chaos, who was the twin brother of Thanatos, or Death, had two sons. One was Nicte, or the night, and the other was Erebus, or the darkness of hell. These two brothers had a son: Hypnos, god of sleep. Chaos and death gave rise to night and darkness. From that singular combination, dreams were born.
“Happiness, for me, consists of enjoying good health, sleeping without fear, and waking up without anguish.”
– Francoise Sagan-
In turn, Hypnos had three children: Morpheus, Phobetor, and Phantasos. Morpheus is the one that appears in the dreams of humans. He adopts the shape of anyone he pleases. Therefore, any human figure that appeared was no more than another personification of Morpheus. Phobetor did the same with animals, and Phantasos with inanimate objects. For the Greeks, human dreams were nothing more than a trick of the gods.
These are not the only curiosities that exist. First, it was mythology and then science which adjudicated or revealed fascinating data. The following 10 curiosities are some of the most interesting.
1. The unusual increase in brain activity
The only thing that we rest when we sleep is the conscience. Far from resting, our brain works intensely during dreams. Even in the deepest phases of sleep, when there are slow waves, the activity does not stop for a second.
What does happen is that, in some phases, there are certain brain regions that work in a slower and more coordinated way. However, during the so-called REM phase there is a true burst of activity. In fact, if an encephalogram is done during this stage, we find that it presents a pattern very similar to that of an awake person.
2. We spend about 6 years of our life dreaming
Whenever we sleep, we dream. There is no other alternative. Those who say they do not dream simply do not remember their dreams. Once we are asleep, there is no way we can stop dreaming. At last we have responded to one of the most common questions about dreaming.
Research indicates that the actual sleep stages occur in periods of 5 to 20 minutes. If you take all those fractions and add them up, this results in you spending about 6 years of your life dreaming. For this statistic, the general life expectancy at that time was taken as reference.
3. The dreams of men and women are different
Some studies have found subtle differences between men and women’s dreams. The contrast between one and the other occurs, above all, in terms of the content of dreams. The scenes and the characters vary from one gender to the other.
According to some studies, men dream more about scenarios and situations where there are acts of aggression. Women, on the other hand, have slightly longer dreams. In them, details are more numerous and the situations are more complex.
4. Not all dreams are full color
Another common question about dreams is if they are all in color or if they can be black and white. Information gathered from dreamers suggests that eight out of ten dreams are in color. Everyone has black and white dreams. However, a small percentage never manage to dream in color, or at least they never seem to remember the color.
In an experiment, a group was asked to select a group of colors they associated with sleep. This request was made to them immediately after they work up. Almost all respondents indicated pastel shades. It can be concluded, then, that we tend to dream in pastel colors.
5. Negative emotions are more common
During dreams, we not only visualize scenes and characters, we also experience many emotions. This is fully demonstrated in Calvin Hall’s extensive research on dreamers. This researcher managed to collect 50,000 stories related to dreams.
As expected, he corroborated that we experience all sorts of emotions while asleep. However, the surprising thing is that the emotion most referred to was anxiety. Also, there was a clear predominance of other negative emotions, such as fear and anger, during dreams.
6. There are universal dreams
Scholars of the subject have revealed that there are some recurring dreams. The most curious thing is that they appear equally in very different cultures. That is why we speak of them as “universal dreams” or of contents that we all dream of at some time.
One of the universal dreams is that of persecution. Also, almost everyone has dreamed that they were being attacked by someone or that they are falling into a void. Dreams of being bullied at school or of being naked in front of a large number of spectators are also very universal.
7. Former smokers dream more vividly
According to a report published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, people who smoked for a long time and then stopped smoking have dreams that are more vivid than normal. In other words, dreams that are more realistic and vivid.
In an investigation conducted with 243 people who had quit smoking, 33% reported having dreams related to smoking. This happened between one and four weeks after they quit. 97% declared that they had never dreamed of smoking before abandoning it.
8. Only well-known people and things appear in dreams
One fact that has been established is that we never dream of people we do not know. The brain doesn’t invent new faces. Those who parade through our dreams are people that we have seen at some point, even if it was just in passing.
No matter how absurd the characters are in our dreams, they are never unknown people. The same goes for objects. Sometimes artifacts appear that seem completely new to us. However, they are a composition or deconstruction of known objects.
9. External stimuli intervene in dreams
After carrying out some studies, the phenomenon known as “incorporation of the dream” was verified. This is one of the most interesting curiosities about dreams. It refers to the fact that sometimes the contents of the environment end up integrating into those of the dream. They amalgamate in a way that could be called “coherent”.
This happens when, for example, the person is dreaming of being in school, in a class. Suddenly, their alarm clock rings in real life and it becomes the school bell in the dream.
10. Paralysis while sleeping
In this case, we are not talking about the well-known, and feared, “sleep paralysis”. What we refer to is the physiological fact that occurs whenever we sleep. Some glands secrete a hormone that induces sleep. Then the neurons send signals to the spinal cord to relax. As the dream progresses, there is no longer just relaxation, but paralysis.
This brain mechanism has a purpose. Imagine that a person could begin to “act out” during their sleep at any time. This would involve some risks, especially in certain environments. That is why the paralysis induced by this process guarantees that the body remains at rest until awakening.
Science has not yet unraveled all the riddles and curiosities about this subject. Moreover, it has not even been able to elucidate the exact reasons why we sleep and dream. It is already known that we do not rest, in any case. Therefore, the world of dreams remains an unknown kingdom, which we enter and from which we leave daily, without realizing its prodigy.