There is nothing more fascinating, more intensely personal, and more uniquely ours then the voyages our minds and spirits take while we sleep. Our dreams can confuse us, relieve us, amuse us, comfort us, inform and enlighten us. Our sleep journeys, even the nightmares, are gifts, our allies to embrace rather then dread and worth every effort it takes to unravel their mysteries and cherish every valuable lesson and insight they have to offer us.
There are two basic stages of sleep: REM, which stands for ‘rapid eye movement’ and is the lightest stage of sleep, and Non-REM, which is the deeper sleep when eye movements and our other muscle responses become almost non existent. It is during REM sleep that we dream, and its when we are awakened during or immediately after REM that we are most likely to remember our dreams. The Non-REM stage accounts for about 75 percent of our sleep, leaving 25 percent for REM sleep. Thanks to a lot of brilliant minds, tirelessly working to advance our knowledge of how the brain works and understanding brain waves, we understand that brain waves fluctuate in approximately ninety minute cycles, while we sleep. Brain waves have been measured by the EEG, or electroencephalograph, have been charted into distinct levels for those ninety minute cycles. Beta Level: We are wide awake, active and alert. Alpha Level: We are awake but relaxed, and our eyes are closed. Theta Level: We are very sleepy or in the process of falling asleep, and usually in the REM stage. Delta Level: We are deeply asleep and in the Non-REM stage.
Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, as well as a subject of philosophical and religious interest, throughout recorded history. The scientific study of dreams is called oneirology. Dreams can last for a few seconds, or as long as twenty minutes. People are more likely to remember the dream if they are awakened during the REM phase. The average person has about 3 to 5 dreams per night, but some may have up to 7 dreams in one night. The dreams tend to last longer as the night progresses. During a full 8-hour night sleep, two hours of it is spent dreaming.
The most interesting thing about dreams is that they speak to us in symbols. These may seem strange, but once we understand the meaning, they are much clearer than our usual way of attempting to communicate with ourselves and others. You may ask, “Why do I have to go through all the symbology of my dream to understand it? Wouldn’t it be much easier to receive the message in a straightforward, direct way? Communication between people is difficult at best. So many things are open to misinterpretation, because of blocks and perceptual filters. The dream symbolism that comes in your dream will be specific to you. You will see recurrent patterns in your dreams. You will see that certain symbols mean something to you. For example, you may have lots of dreams that use the symbology of water in all its different forms. Water dreams are very much connected to the emotional energy state. To someone else, seeing water may make them think of cleansing and purification, because water is also connected to letting go of and ridding ourselves of things that are no longer relevant in our lives. Being able to connect to whichever dream symbol is pertinent to you is part of developing your own dream symbology. By doing this the dreamer comes to develop their own personal dream symbolism.