I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Do you dream? Do
you create pictures and stories in your mind as you sleep? Today, we are going
to explore dreaming. People have had ideas about the meaning and importance of
dreams throughout history. Today brain researchers are learning even more about
expressions of thoughts, feelings and events that pass through our mind while
we are sleeping. People dream about one to two hours each night. We may have
four to seven dreams in one night. Everybody dreams. But only some people remember their dreams.
The word "dream" comes from an old word
in English that means "joy" and "music." Our dreams often include all the
senses – smells, sounds, sights, tastes and things we touch. We dream in color.
Sometimes we dream the same dream over and over again. These repeated dreams
are often unpleasant. They may even be nightmares -- bad dreams that frighten
and scientists sometimes say they get ideas from dreams. For example, the singer
Paul McCartney of the Beatles said he awakened one day with the music for the
song "Yesterday" in his head. The writer Mary Shelley said she had a very
strong dream about a scientist using a machine to make a creature come alive.
When she awakened, she began to write her book about a scientist named
Frankenstein who creates a frightening monster.
People have been trying to decide what dreams mean for
thousands of years. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed dreams provided messages
from the gods. Sometimes people who could understand dreams would help
military leaders in battle.
In ancient Egypt, people who could explain
dreams were believed to be special. In the Christian Bible, there are more than
seven hundred comments or stories about dreams. In China, people
believed that dreams were a way to visit with family members who had died. Some
Native American tribes and Mexican civilizations believed dreams were a
different world we visit when we sleep.
Europe, people believed that dreams were evil and could lead people to do bad
things. Two hundred years ago, people awakened after four or five hours
of sleep to think about their dreams or talk about them with other people. Then
they returned to sleep for another four to five hours.
Early in the twentieth century, two famous scientists
developed different ideas about dreams. Austrian
psychiatrist Sigmund Freud published a book called "The Interpretation of
Dreams" in nineteen hundred. Freud believed people often dream about things
they want but cannot have. These dreams
are often linked to sex and aggression.
For Freud, dreams
were full of hidden meaning. He tried to understand dreams as a way to
understand people and why they acted or thought in certain ways. Freud believed
that every thought and every action started deep in our brains. He thought
dreams could be an important way to understand what is happening in our brains.
Freud told people what their dreams meant as a way of
helping them solve problems or understand their worries. For example, Freud
said when people dream of flying or swinging, they want to be free of their
childhood. When a person dreams that a brother or sister or parent has died, the
dreamer is really hiding feelings of hatred for that person. Or a desire to have what the other person
psychiatrist Carl Jung worked closely with Freud for several years. But he developed very different ideas about
dreams. Jung believed dreams could help people grow and understand themselves.
He believed dreams provide solutions to problems we face when we are awake.
also believed dreams tell us something about ourselves and our relations with
other people. He did not believe dreams hide our feelings about sex or
Today we know more about the science of dreaming
because researchers can take pictures of people's brains while they are
In nineteen fifty-three, scientists
discovered a special kind of sleep called REM or rapid eye movement. Our eyes
move back and forth very quickly while they are closed. Our bodies go through
several periods of sleep each night. REM sleep is the fourth period. We enter
REM sleep four to seven times each night. During REM sleep, our bodies do not
move at all. This is the time when we dream. If people are awakened during
their REM sleep, they will remember their dreams almost ninety percent of the
time. This is true even for people who
say they do not dream.
kind of dreaming is called lucid dreaming. People know during a dream that they
An organization in Canada called the Dreams Foundation
believes you can train yourself to have lucid dreams by paying very close
attention to your dreams and writing them down. The Dreams Foundation believes
this is one way to become more imaginative and creative. It is possible to take
classes on the Internet to learn how to remember dreams and use what you learn
in your daily life.
is a great deal of other information about dreams and dreaming on the Internet.
There is even a collection of more than twenty thousand descriptions of dreams
called the DreamBank. People between the
ages of seven and seventy-four made these dream reports. People can search this collection to help
understand dreams or they can add reports about their own dreams.
have done serious research about dreams. The International Association for the Study
of Dreams holds a meeting every year. At one meeting scientists talked
about ways to help victims of crime who have nightmares. Scientists have also
studied dreams and creativity, dreams of sick people and dreams of children. The
group will be meeting next month in Chicago, Illinois. An Australian professor named Robert Moss will
talk about how dreams have influenced history.
example, he says Harriet Tubman was able to help American slaves escape to
freedom because she saw herself flying like a bird in her dreams. Mister Moss
also teaches an Internet course to help people explore and understand their
who study dreaming often attach wires to the head of a person who is sleeping.
The wires record electrical activity in the brain. These studies show that the
part of the brain in which we feel emotion is very active when we dream.
The front part
of the brain is much less active; this is the center of our higher level
thinking processes like organization and memory. Some scientists believe this
is why our dreams often seem strange and out of order.
Rosalind Cartwright says the study of dreams is changing because scientists are
now spending more time trying to understand why some people have problems
sleeping. Miz Cartwright says for people
who sleep well, dreaming can help them control their emotions during the day. Researchers are still trying to understand
the importanceof dreams for people who do not
sleep well and often wake during the night.
researchers are studying how dreaming helps our bodies work with problems and
very sad emotions. Robert Stickgold is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard
University in Massachusetts. Doctor Stickgold says that when we dream, the
brain is trying to make sense of the world.
It does so by putting our memories together in different ways to make
new connections and relationships. Doctor Stickgold believes that dreaming is a
biological process. He does not agree with Sigmund Freud that dreaming is the
way we express our hidden feelings and desires.
believe it is important to keep researching dreams. Doctor Stickgold says it
has been more than one hundred years since Sigmund Freud published his
important book about dreaming. Yet there is still no agreement on exactly how
the brain works when we are dreaming or why we dream.
program was written by Karen Leggett and produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve
Ember. You can find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports at
voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again
next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.