Behind the scenes of dreams

(By Sara Thomas)

Sophia Berry remembers having vivid dreams of her teeth crumbling out of her mouth.

“I couldn’t erase it from my memory, I didn’t know if I needed to see a dentist or a therapist,” said Berry, a third-year psychology and gerontology student at St. Thomas University.

She said it could’ve been because she’s very self-conscious about her teeth. Her mother, who believes all dreams have meanings, used to say losing teeth meant something in her life was changing. Berry called it a stress dream.

Sigmund Freud, a 19th century neurologist wrote The Interpretation of Dreams. He said dreams represent the deepest unconscious desires and tell us about ourselves and our fears.

However, Michael O’Brien, a psychology major at STU, said the best advice he received about dreams was from his mother, a clinical psychologist.

“She told me that while dreams probably don’t hold any significance in what they are, we can still take things from them and we can improve our lives in some way,” he said.

Researchers say dreams are an important process that helps the brain reorganize memories and experiences gathered during the day. They change necessary short-term memories into stored long-term memories

Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explained in an NBC News article that sleep helps the brain retain information and solve problems and questions that you experienced in your waking hours. Our environment, surroundings and thoughts with a heavily emotional charge, can affect dreams.

Garrett Moore, a second-year student at STU, said he once had a dream that he was following a woman wearing a red dress through a field.

“It felt wicked symbolic, like it had some deeper meaning, but until now I still have no idea what it was about,” he said.

He said he thinks it must’ve been someone he’s seen but never talked to, and that it means he had to be alert for future opportunities coming his way.

What it all means

An average sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes and each cycle is divided into five stages. Most dreams occur during the Rapid Eye Movement stage, or when the brain is between being conscious and unconscious.

Some of the most common scenarios for dreams are catching your partner cheating, flying, falling, being late, being pregnant or being naked in public. According to Lauri Loewenberg, a certified dream analyst and member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, a cheating partner in dreams means you think your partner spends too much time on things not involving you. Being late tells that you are overwhelmed, while being naked in public is a sign of anxiety and vulnerability. Flying means letting go of something, and pregnancy can mean birth of a new idea or concept.

Berry recalled a nightmare of her grandmother dying, relating it to her recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

“When I woke up, I had to find words to tell her now, before she would be gone from me forever, I can pick at them if I need to,” she said.

“Every now and then I get ominous dreams and they usually are kind of a sign that I need to reflect on an important part of my life.”