To sleep, perchance to dream … but what do dreams mean?

To sleep, perchance to dream ... but what do dreams mean?

Photo Illustration: If Fairmont senior Rachel Hester dreams of winning a country music award, is it something she desires or fears?

Everyone has had random dreams that don’t seem logical, but some psychologists believe that behind all that craziness, dreams represent desires, memories and anxieties.

The most vivid dreams occur during the Rapid Eye Movement stage of sleep, in which the eyes move back and forth rapidly beneath the eyelids. The REM stage usually occurs three to four times each night for intervals of approximately 90 minutes.

Fairmont students agree that dreams can sometimes be pretty strange. Some shared examples of their dreams, which range from bizarre to exciting or sad.

For example, junior EJ Sanford seems like an upstanding guy, but one of his dreams shows a different side. “Once I had a dream that I stole a car and got shot with a Taser gun by the owner,” he said.

Some have lavish and exciting dreams. “Once I dreamed that I was the richest person in the world and got anything I wanted,” said sophomore Amanda Newland.

Freshman Owen Wood might wish for dreams like that. He says he has had some less-than-joyful dreams. “Sometimes, I’ll have reoccurring dreams about my loved ones dying,” he said.

Does every dream tell a story?

Each semester, psychology teacher Linda Bergman has her students complete dream journals in order to learn how to interpret their own dreams.

“It’s a fun assignment that captures their imagination,” Bergman said. “I have students write down their dreams as an assignment over a three-week period, and I then give students steps in modern-day dream interpretation. During the mini-unit on sleep, sleep disorders and dreams, we learn theories on why we dream. Students pick the theory they like best based on their dreaming experiences.”

Psychologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) believed that every dream has a meaning and useful message behind it. In most dreams, the meaning is hidden within mysterious symbols and metaphors. Freud also believed that dreams can tell people what’s important to them or what’s upsetting them.

But first you have to remember dreams

Remembering dreams can allow the dreamer to analyze those jumbled bits of thought and interpret their meaning. Everybody dreams, but some people have a hard time remembering them. According to Dream Moods Inc. (, most people forget half of a dream within five minutes of waking up; five minutes later, 90 percent of the dream is lost. Writing down dreams immediately upon waking, when the dream is still fresh, helps develop better dream recall abilities.

However, some students don’t find it hard to remember their dreams.

“I remember my dreams six times a week at least,” said junior Allissa Rowe, who is in Bergman’s psychology class. 

For others it’s a lot more difficult. “I rarely remember my dreams. Usually I remember them once a week,” junior Jessica Bertke said.

A 2003 study from the University of Iowa concluded that creative minds have an easier time remembering their dreams. The study surveyed 193 college students who recorded for 14 weeks what time they woke up, what time they went to bed the previous night, if they consumed any alcohol or caffeine within four hours of falling asleep, and whether they remembered any of their dreams upon waking.

The study concluded that neither the quality of sleep nor length affected the ability to recall dreams. However, individuals who are imaginative and enjoy fantasizing are more likely to remember their dreams.

According to Bergman, scientists know that humans need to dream, just as they need to sleep. “We have theories on why we need to dream that are intriguing,” she said.

Bergman said Freud called dreams “the royal road to the unconsciousness,” adding that many psychoanalysts believe that “we dream of what we cannot have or would not do by the light of day.” She offered a quote from the Roman philosopher Cicero (106-43 B.C.):

“There is nothing so impossible or so unnatural that it cannot happen in a dream.”