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Why Do We Dream? 5 Dream Theories

Why Do We Dream? 5 Dream Theories

Ever wake up and think to yourself, “wow, that was a crazy dream!” but just as you have that thought, you forget everything about it?

If we don’t always remember our dreams, why do we have them? What about the ones we do remember, such as terrifying nightmares or exciting, happy dreams?

These questions have puzzled scientists for years. We still don’t have one concrete, solid answer, but many theories give insight into the potential purpose of dreams. 

We’ve gathered five popular dream theories to explain the phenomenon, starting with the idea that dreams help us peer into our subconscious thoughts and desires. 

1. Insight Into The Subconscious Mind

We all have unconscious desires, thoughts, and wishes (according to Sigmund Freud, that is). 

Freud believed that dreams can be divided into two categories: manifest content and latent content. 

Manifest content consists of the thoughts, visual imagery, storyline, and content contained within the dream, while latent content is believed to represent hidden psychological meanings behind each dream. 

This theory has led to many popular dream interpretations that may explain suppressed thoughts and feelings that cause certain types of dreams. 

Freud described many different mechanisms that the subconscious mind uses to manipulate the latent content of dreams, including: 

  • Displacement: this mechanism involves replacing one object or person with another as a “stand-in” for the person, thing, or event that is actually causing distress. 
  • Projection: this mechanism includes placing feelings that are difficult to accept onto someone else. For example, you may dream that someone is upset withyou, but in your waking life, you are actually upset withthem.
  • Symbolization: this mechanism involves acting out a repressed urge through symbolism. 
  • Condensation: this mechanism includes minimizing any hidden urges while dreaming by condensing multiple elements into one theme that disguises the real meaning
  • Rationalization: this process involves turning all symbols, objects, people, and storylines of a dream and piecing them together as a coherent story. 

While Freud’s theories are just that: theories, they give us important insight into the hidden psychological states that may influence the types of dreams we have. 

Research has shown that our levels of worry during waking hours may influence our dreams (and that our dreams are a useful tool to help us cope with stress).

2. Dreams Help Us Cope

We’ve all had happy dreams and terrifying dreams. Why do we have blissful dreams some nights and dream of frightening situations, such as being stuck in a tornado, other nights?

The meaning of a tornado dream or other stressful event may lie in helping us cope with the stresses we experience in our waking lives. 

If you’re stressed and overwhelmed often, your dreams may follow suit. 

Research has proven that people who experience high levels of anxiety, worry, or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) report intense nightmares more often than those who do not. 

Over time, proper treatment of these conditions can help cut back on the number of terrifying dreams you experience each night. 

On the other hand, another theory suggests that those who are stressed in daily life may have more blissful dreams. 

Psychologist Carl Jung thought that happy dreams are the result of the brain creating a way to compensate for difficult and unhappy experiences in reality. 

Another widely held belief is that dreams help us store and sort memories. 

3. A Filing Cabinet For Our Memories

If you learn new information and then get an adequate night’s rest, you’re more likely to recall the information after waking up. 

On the other hand, if you learn something new and are deprived of sleep, memory recall is even more difficult than usual. 


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This all ties back to the idea that sleep helps us store memories by filtering through important details from each day. 

While we sleep, our brains help us store new information and experiences in our long-term memory to help us apply the information to future situations. 

At the same time, any useless memories are “cleared” to make room for relevant memories that will help us in the future. 

This theory about long-term memory strongly connects to the idea that dreams help us develop and maintain instincts that prepare us for danger in reality. 

4. Dreams Protect Us From Danger

While we may prefer to have happy dreams over a dream about a tornado or a different life-threatening experience, dreams of danger may help us develop primitive instincts. 

The idea behind this theory is that our brains simulate threats, whether it be a natural disaster or awkward social situation, to help us build up a threshold to handle these situations successfully. 

 Theoretically, these situations help us regulate our fight-or-flight responses and “rehearse” for potential experiences. 

Common dreams that fall into this category may include: 

  • Showing up to an important event without being fully dressed or “put together” 
  • Running away from a threatening person or situation
  • Natural disasters, such as dreaming of a tornado, fire, flood, or hurricane
  • Dreams of falling
  • Forgetting to study for a test or missing a class, even if you are no longer a student
  • Waking up late for work 

Although these dreams are stressful, they may be vital to our evolution and survival instincts. 

However, you may also experience more intense, terrifying dreams if you suffer from poor sleep consistently. 

5. Poor Sleep Quality Causes Intense Dreams

A lack of happy dreams and an increase in dreams about fires, tornados, or awkward social scenes may be the result of poor sleep hygiene. 

Furthermore, interrupted sleep leads to more vivid dreams that you’re more likely to remember, while a good night’s rest cuts down on the number of intense dreams you remember upon waking. 

Improve your sleep quality by avoiding exercise at night, cutting back on caffeine, and staying away from blue light-emitting devices at least one hour before bed. 

Try to avoid eating heavy, carb-rich foods close to bedtime, create a consistent nighttime routine, and maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule to keep your circadian rhythm in check. 

Snoring fragments sleep. If you snore, address the issue by treating snoring with the help of mouth tape. 

It sounds outlandish, but mouth tape helps to maintain a proper lip seal all night long, stopping mouth breathing in its tracks. This keeps the tissues in the airway from falling backward and vibrating together. 

Snoring also leads to sleep apnea. Address and treat sleep apnea by combining your prescribed therapy with mouth tape at night. 

Achieve Sweet Dreams With SomniFix

Now that we know what causes happy dreams and life-threatening dreams of fires and tornados, you can address your sleep hygiene and make improvements. 

A proper routine is vital to cut back on the number of distressing dreams you remember in the morning. Mouth tape stops sleep-disrupting snoring in its tracks, helping you achieve the quality sleep you deserve. 

Moreover, since mouth tape promotes health-boosting nasal breathing, you’ll say goodbye to bad breath, dry mouth, and fatigue.

SomniFix Mouth Strips are hypoallergenic and created to be skin-safe for even the most sensitive skin types. 

Better yet, you can tape your mouth in combination with a CPAP machine for effective and comfortable sleep apnea treatment – no chin straps required. 

Tape your way to happy dreams and your best sleep yet. Dream a little dream of SomniFix tonight!

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