Can our dreams predict our future

Dreaming: A little guide through the world of dreams

Why a movie goes on in our minds at night and why we often get our best thoughts when we sleep: Six questions about dreams

Why do I forget my dreams so quickly?

This simple question has preoccupied generations of psychologists. Numerous studies explore the influence of various factors on dream memory - personality, age, gender, dream content, length of sleep - but the findings do not give a clear picture. A more recent hypothesis is based on the (proven) fact that our brains need up to 15 minutes after waking up to “run up” to full capacity. In this phase, the memory probably works only to a limited extent and is not able to store dream content sustainably.

Can I improve my dream memory?

Yes, it's easy. Put your pen and notepad on your bedside table and make a resolution before you go to sleep that you will remember a dream the next morning. After waking up, lie there motionless for a few moments and write down what you have experienced immediately: after you shower, it will probably have been erased. If you keep this practice for a few weeks, you will soon be able to record at least one dream a night. And the memories of it will become increasingly vivid.

I almost never remember dreams. Could it be that most nights I don't have any?

No. It is true that drugs or brain damage can impair dream memory. But the basic rule is: if you have consciousness, you also dream. Because our brain is never “switched off” during sleep, as was previously thought, but is almost as active - only the activation patterns are different than when we are awake. There is even a lot to suggest that we dream all night. Experiments in the sleep laboratory show: Whenever you wake people - whether shortly after falling asleep or in the middle of a deep sleep phase - they report dream experiences. But these change over the course of the night: While falling asleep, they tend to resemble thoughts and are relatively realistic. Dreams full of images with a complex plot, on the other hand, are typical of the REM sleep phases. Such findings bring brain researchers to a new, exciting question. If our consciousness is constantly playing a “film” for us - why do we even have the feeling of sinking into darkness while sleeping?

Can dreams change life?

It happens. The American sleep researcher William Dement, at times a heavy smoker, saw in a dream an x-ray of his lungs, which were covered with tumors. After waking up, he never touched a cigarette. Many scientific discoveries and works of art go back to nocturnal inspirations. The structure of the periodic table, for example, the sewing machine, pictures by Salvador Dalí and the Beatles song "Yesterday". And not only geniuses can use dreams as a source of inspiration: In an online survey among “average dreamers”, researchers at Heidelberg University collected hundreds of nocturnal experiences that had provided food for thought - for study and work, but also for solving personal problems.

Why do we dream at all?

You don't exactly know. What is certain is that our brain stores information gained during sleep during the day and links new with older memories. It is not yet clear whether the dreams themselves have a function of their own. Perhaps those children are on the right track who came up with the following explanation in a survey by the Zurich psychologist Inge Strauch: "We dream at night so that we don't get bored in our sleep."

Can dreams show us the future?

Many people report nocturnal experiences that later occurred in reality: unexpected visits or promotions, but also tragic events such as the death of loved ones. One of the most famous "precognitive dreams" is attributed to Abraham Lincoln: The 16th President of the USA is said to have dreamed of his death in April 1865, a few days before he was shot during a theater performance. Of course, one does not have to use supernatural powers to explain such dreams. Because what we experience in sleep always reflects our current fears and hopes. Our dream consciousness constructs concrete fantasies from these building blocks. That these occasionally come true is sometimes tragic. But almost always logical.

Understanding night fantasies Typical dreams - and what they mean

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