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David Manly
Journalism
Freelance Science Journalist
Toronto Ontario CAN

David Manly is a freelance journalist who will blog about a wide range of topics that all fall under the umbrella of zoology and ecology. While his expertise lies with reptiles and amphibians, he has a wide array of knowledge and interest in all animal species - from the sponge to the great ape. He hopes you will enjoy his blog, as he plans to make it both entertaining and enjoyable (as well as fill it with interesting facts, tidbits, photos and videos).

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The past few days have been very interesting and filled with questions and mysteries, but the surprising thing is that none of these events happened while I was awake. For the past four nights, I have experienced some of the craziest dreams in recent memory.

Four nights ago, I had a dream that I hunted poisonous snakes in my den using nothing but a woven blanket and my wits. There were copperheads, asps, king cobras and more. And yet, surprisingly, I only had to deal with one at a time.

It was like the snakes would wait their turn to be confronted by me and my most trusted sidekick, an old friend from elementary school who I hadn’t seen in well over a decade.

Three nights ago I dreamt that I was back in my high school and had to solve calculus equations that took up all the walls in the school. I was able to ask one person for help, so I invited Sheldon Cooper from TV’s The Big Bang Theory, but as soon as he saw them he ran away.

And the brutal taskmaster, my heavily accented calculus teacher from university, said that if I didn’t solve them all perfectly by the end of the school day, the school would blow up.

No pressure, eh?

Two nights ago resulted in one of the weirdest dreams, where space aliens took over Canada. The aliens did not take over a single other country in the world, just Canada. And the way the did so, by using mind-controlled and rabies-infected weasels, was ingenious, or so I thought in the dream.

Finally, last night I dreamt that I was sailing on the open ocean and got caught by a huge storm and was stranded on an island with only my iPod, two books and someone who I absolutely hated for company. What he was doing on the boat in the first place, I have no idea.

All of these dreams have started me thinking about how humans dream and the purpose of it all.

The most common theory (but there is no universally accepted one) is that dreams are a way for our brain to sort out all the information we have accumulated throughout the day. The way I think of it is like this:

Imagine your mind is like a giant warehouse, like the one at the end of Stephen Spielberg's film, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Every day new items (such as experiences, visual images, information, etc.) come into the warehouse and accumulate until they can be properly sorted when the warehouse has quieted down in the evening. Then, every item is sorted and placed in its proper location (such as in long-term memory) or discarded if deemed insignificant.

All that information being stored in the warehouse results in often-chaotic dreams. As the information/experiences/images moves along the corridors to its unique storage space, it interacts with all the other bits of information it passes along the way. That is why many dreams result in a very stream of consciousness-like narrative.

While all this sorting and reorganization is going on, new synapses are created and old ones are removed or repaired.

But, that is not to say that all dreams are chaotic and make no sense, as you can have a certain amount of control over them.

For example, if before you go to sleep tonight, you concentrate on one thing and only that one thing; there is a good chance it will be incorporated into your dream. It may not work the first time, but it DOES work.

That is a variation on what is known as “lucid dreaming,” where an individual realizes they are dreaming inside a dream, and then can control whatever happens within it. These dreams can rank among the most vivid and real the individual has ever encountered, and lucid dreaming has been extensively studied, and has been scientifically proven to exist.

The fact is, as far as I could research, everyone does dream but not everyone can remember what he or she was dreaming about. For example, I can remember a few dreams that I’ve had in my life, but those that were the most horrifying/pleasant/enlightening and most are forgotten.

Do you remember your dreams?

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Blog Comments

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I remember my dreams sometimes.  I watched a somewhat interesting NOVA documentary (What Are Dreams?) on netflix a while back about dreaming and their main conclusion is that we dream to prepare for experiences that may happen in the future.  For example, if you dream about wrestling a bear in your pajamas then one day when you're hiking in the woods and get attacked by a grizzly, you'll be better prepared for the situation because you practiced it in your dreams.  I'm not sure if I believe that hypothesis though.  A lot of unnatural things happen in dreams (like being able to fly away) that wouldn't translate well in real world situations.

Danah

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As someone with Narcolepsy (a REM disorder) I dream all the time. I remember so many of them. And I have many lucid dreams. I thought that everybody could control their dreams until I was in my early twenties and found out people strived for the ability to have them.

Dreams are amazing even if they also plague my day to day life.


Psycasm
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I remember most of my dreams, and unfortunately they're horrifying. Just doing a little reading it seems they're a mild form of night-terrors.

What was your emotional state during those dreams you described? Sounds like they could've been scary...


David Manly
Freelance Science Journalist
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@Brian - That's an interesting theory. I guess that it works kind of like The Matrix, right? I dreamt about hunting down poisonous snakes, so now .... "woah, I know snake hunting." ;)

@Psycasm - For the first few, my mental state was prettu calm actually!
But, the last two were when a bunch of family stuff happened (not good news), so I suppose that could explain part of it. Fascianting, isn't it?


Dr. Girlfriend
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For the last nine years I have been keeping a dream diary. I do it mostly as an exercise in writing, but I also find it fascinating how certain themes or characters reoccur.

At one point I started going to bed with the thought in my head that I would remember my dreams. Funnily enough I have had several dreams where I'd wake up and write down my dream, only to wake up for real with an empty notebook and no recollection of any other dream.


Alchemystress
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Lucid dreaming is cool, I have had sme experience with it, its weird how the dreaming world works. Something I have had happen a lot is sleep paralysis. Sleep is a crazy thing. Thanks for sharing!


Thomas Lancaster
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Woot schrodinger equations :) 
Quantum mechanics I basically involves the sole manipulation of that equation... over, and over.

Of course the wave equation is much more difficult to mainpulate than the time equation HCG diet 


DollyMia
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Dreaming can be both fun and scary. I'm the kind of person that dreams a lot and often remembers it the moment I woke up. I have all the weirdest dreams in the world. I fought a dinausor, killed my uncle, become the fastest swimmer in the world (I don't even swim!), become a princess and many others.

Joshua Rhodes

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I am fortunate in that I can never remember my dreams. I wake usually refreshed with gray hazy memories of the night before. Dreaming is quite an amazing tool or an anxiety inducer. I've heard from plenty of people who could control their dreams but I've also heard from plenty more that are constantly stuck in a dream and can't wake up. The mind is a powerful thing.

Emma Rose

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I love to see that global awareness about lucid dreaming is growing every day all around the world. Many people started playing with it just because of curiosity but after some time realized it is a part of bigger picture like meditation and spirituality is. World is changing, many times i feel it is going wrong way but events and people like these are bringing back hope that eventually truth and general well being will be on first place. I am editor of website about lucid dreaming where I tend to teach people about this phenomena. Many don't even know about it, some heard but didn't know what it is and big majority is thrilled when figure out that everyone can learn to be lucid. 

Cheers

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