Science has experienced great progress in deepening our understanding of dreaming. Still, there is no answer to the question: Why do we dream? There are, however, a great number of theories being explored. While some scientists posit that dreaming has no direct function — but instead is a consequence of other biological processes that occur during sleep — many scientists studying sleep and dreams believe that dreaming serves a primary purpose. Theories of dreaming span scientific disciplines, from psychiatry and psychology to neurobiology. Some of the current theories of the purpose of dreaming suggest that dreaming is:
• A component and form of memory processing, aiding in the consolidation of learningand short-term memory to long-term memory storage.
• An extension of waking consciousness, reflecting the experiences of waking life.
• A means by which the mind works through difficult, complicated, unsettling thoughts, emotions, and experiences, to achieve psychological and emotional balance.
• The brain responding to biochemical changes and electrical impulses that occur during sleep.
• A form of consciousness that unites past, present and future in processing information from the first two, and preparing for the third.
• A protective act by the brain to prepare itself to face threats, dangers and challenges.
There is not likely ever to be a simple answer, or a single theory that explains the full role of dreaming to human life. Biological, cognitive, psychological — it’s very likely that dreaming may serve important functions in each of these realms.
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