Why do we sleep? Is it so we can dream? It turns out that while we sleep, something is going on in our brains that is necessary for making memories.

While science tries to understand the stuff dreams are made of, humans, from cultures all over the world, continue to believe that dreams contain important hidden truths.

Researchers surveyed over a thousand people in 6 different countries about their dreams. Researcher Carey Morewedge says, “Psychologists’ interpretations of the meaning of dreams vary widely, but our research shows that people believe their dreams provide meaningful insight into themselves and their world.” After interviewing so many people, he believes that “?People attribute meaning to dreams when it corresponds with their pre-existing beliefs and desires.”

In another study, Morewedge and his team wanted to explore how dreams might influence people’s waking behavior. They surveyed 182 commuters at a Boston train station, asking them to imagine that one of four possible scenarios had happened the night before a scheduled airline trip: The national threat level was raised to orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack; they consciously thought about their plane crashing; they dreamed about a plane crash; or a real plane crash occurred on the route they planned to take. A dream of a plane crash was more likely to affect travel plans than either thinking about a crash or a government warning, and the dream of a plane crash produced a similar level of anxiety as did an actual crash.

Neuroscientist Marcos Frank has discovered that cellular changes in the sleeping brain promote the formation of memories and that the brain during sleep is fundamentally different from the brain during wakefulness. He says, “We find that [there are] biochemical changes [that] are simply not happening in the neurons of animals that are awake. And when the animal goes to sleep it’s like you?ve thrown a switch, and all of a sudden, everything is turned on that’s necessary for making [the] changes that form the basis of memory formation.”

So if you?re worried about passing that exam, don’t stay up late studying?go to sleep!

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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