Dreams and Nightmare research paper:

Although little is really known about the cause, source and meaning of our dreams, most people still want to dream. Dreaming for many people is an act of freedom in which they can be free of the real world with all its restrictions and problems. Many also consider dreaming as a means to get away from the sad realities in which they live. People have been dreaming ever since they existed, and different civilizations have given dreams and nightmares different meanings and interpretations, some of which are no longer acceptable today. When dealing with reality, imagination is usually limited, but when it comes to dreams and nightmares, people allow their imagination to become free. For this reason, dreams are sometimes interpreted in very strange ways. Dreams and nightmares have been classified in various ways, and several theories have been set to interpret and explain their appearance.

Interpreting dreams has always been a concern for man kind. The primitive man did not understand sleep. Some primitive men believed that sleep was a period of death after which they lived again. Others believed that during sleep, their souls left their bodies and went to other places and got involved in other events. They believed that dreams are the results of these movements of the soul. Therefore, if he dreamt that he was in a certain place, the primitive man believed that he actually went there during his sleep (Hadfield 3).

Because of his inability to understand or touch dreams, the primitive man gave dreams a lot of importance, even more than reality. He considered that dreams were guiding signs that enabled him to lead his life, and that the instructions appearing in his dreams were to be followed carefully, whereas nightmares indicated warnings that he had to take attention of (Hadfield 3).

Human civilizations, especially the Greeks, believed that during dreams, man was actually communicating with another world, mainly with gods. The Greeks believed that during his dreams, man received messages, orders and instructions from the gods (Hadfield 4).

During the scientific ages, dreams were ignored and not given enough scientific attention, mainly because they were not touchable. They were unclear perceptions that could not be proven, nor could they be dealt with as dealing with sold things. Moreover, scientists were not able to demonstrate the meanings of dreams or their relationship to reality. As a result, they concluded that dreams were not good enough for scientific study (Lewin 13). This view was even shared by the Greek philosopher Heracleitos, who unlike his people, believed that dreams were not significant or meaningful. One reason, he argued, was that dreams were not scientific nor objective, and therefore could not be studied as a scientific material. Heracleitos argued that dreams were nothing but personal perceptions which should not be trusted because they came during sleep when man was not in control of his body or mind (Lewin 13).

Dreams not to be Ignored:

Dreams continued to be ignored by scientists until the nineteenth century, particularly when Freud began to show interest in them. As a result, a number of theories on dreams and nightmares became popular in a short time. One very popular theory was the physiological theory. According to this theory, eating a heavy supper before going to bed can cause indigestion and other disturbances. As a result, the body requires more blood to complete the digestion process in the lower part of the body. This leaves the brain with less blood for the circulation, leading to the creation of dreams. Although this theory has gained a lot of popularity and support, it has failed so far in explaining the relation between eating before sleep and the events and things of which people dream (Hadfield 5).

The most popular theory about dreams and nightmares, however, remains the Personal reminiscence theory. According to this theory, dreams are based on the past. They are created from past experiences which might have happened hours or even years or decades before. This theory is supported by the fact that in most dreams, people tend to see people, events and places that they had seen before, although in different forms or ways (Hadfield 9).

A less popular theory but one which attracts attention is the Premonitory Theory which states that dreams indicate and describe the future. Since most dreams are more related to the past, this theory has not become quite popular. However, there have been many people who did indeed dreams of events that happened later on. This theory also states that sometimes, our consciousness is blinded about certain realities or possible events, but that in our sleep, we may tend to see things clearly and correctly, which is also known as tuition. Even though this has not been scientifically proven, this theory is still acceptable to many people (Hadfield 12).

Many studies have addressed the interpretation of the nature of Dreams:

Enormous studies have been made during the twentieth century to define and interpret the nature of dreams. Freud’s view remains one of the most popular until now. According to Freud, dreams are an outlet through which we are able to express our conflicts and anxieties, our repressed desires and wants, openly and freely. Consequently, Freud believed that the source of dreams lies in the feeling of guilt which we develop in reality, when we are unable to face things. Instead, people tend to face in their dreams where they are able to hide. Therefore, Freud believed that dreams are images brought to our mind about things which we try to hide from and avoid in our reality (Hadfield 27).

Further studies show that dreams do not only happen right before we wake up, but rather, they take place throughout sleep. Nevertheless, the majority of dreams are never remembered, especially those which appear during the early stages of sleep. Sometimes, certain dreams are suddenly remembered during the day. This is caused by certain stimulation in real life that reminds the person of certain aspects or events of the dream, and which brings the dream back to memory (Hadfield 17).

Another aspect that was uncovered about dreams was their relation to the body. In this respect, dreams are of two types. The first type includes most dreams, which do not involve any feelings of the body, and therefore are not related to it. The second type includes less frequent dreams in which the dream might involve flying, running, swimming, jumping and other activities (Lewin 20).

Dreams which involve unpleasant situations are classified as nightmares. These are divided into two categories. The first category is known as night terrors whereas the second as anxiety dreams. Both kinds of nightmares are very common among children. However, anxiety dreams also appear in adults (Bootzin & Acocella 430).

Pavor noctornus is another name given to night terrors which involve extreme horror and which result in rapid breathing, increased heartbeat, sweating and other physical reactions. When the child in such situations is awakened, it is difficult to calm her down or to pull her out of the dream. Later on when the child wakes up in the morning, she remembers nothing of the dream (Bootzin & Acocella 430). Anxiety dreams, also known as garden-variety nightmares are not completely forgotten. In fact, most sleepers, especially children, can describe in detail the events that took place in their dreams. Scientists notice that children between four and six usually go through a period of watching too many nightmares of all kinds (Bootzin & Acocella 430).

Finally, not much is yet known about the nature, causes and meanings of dreams and nightmares. Several theories have been established ever since men had dreams. However, none of the theories is capable of giving a final answer to the questions on dreams and nightmares. Dreams may be related to the past, present, future or even to the imagination, but they are inside us, especially during our sleep, when we are trying to rest from the troubles of the world.

Works Cited

Bootzin, R. & Acocella, J. Abnormal Psychology. New

York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1988.

Hadfield, J. A. Dreams And Nightmares. Pelican Books.

Hammondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd, 1954.

Lewin, B. Dreams and the Uses of Regression. New York:

International Universities Press, Inc., 1957.

Dreams & Nightmares


Thesis Statement: Dreams and nightmares have been classified in various ways, and several theories have been set to interpret and explain their appearance.

  1. History of dreams
  • The primitive thought
  1. Death and second reality
  2. Signs and instructions
  • The classical thought
  1. Messages and criticism
  2. False perceptions
  3. Modern theories on dreams
  4. The physiological theory
  5. Personal reminiscence theory
  6. Premonitory theory
  7. Nature of dreams
  • Freudian perspective
  1. Psychological outlet
  2. Conflict of guilt
  • Memory and dreams
  • Body and dreams
  • Nightmares and dreams
  1. Pavor noctornus
  2. Garden-variety

III.  Conclusion