Researchers say that the blockbuster movie Inception is not a complete Hollywood fantasy.

Even tough the word definition of dream is something like “a series of mental images and emotions occurring during sleep” the actual scientific definition is still a matter of much debate. A few people will define it as a REM (rapid eye movement) sleep experience which actually the research doesn’t support. There are some interesting things going on in the brain during REM. REM is generally the only time during sleep that most of the cortex is pretty much as active as it is when we’re awake. The rhythmic brain stem activity during this phase wakes the cortex up and then cortex carries out some ordered and meaningful functions. This gives the impression that one is dreaming.

During dreams there are certain regions which are otherwise inactive or little activate, now in an activated or hyperactivated state. The reverse is also true.  Scientists say that we can use dreams to solve a problem. Here is how it works (but not always):

f you want to problem-solve in a dream, you should first of all think of the problem before bed, and if it lends itself to an image, hold it in your mind and let it be the last thing in your mind before falling asleep. For extra credit assemble something on your bedside table that makes an image of the problem. If it’s a personal problem, it might be the person you have the conflict with. If you’re an artist, it might be a blank canvas. If you’re a scientist, the device you’re working on that’s half assembled or a mathematical proof you’ve been writing through versions of.

Equally important, don’t jump out of bed when you wake up—almost half of dream content is lost if you get distracted. Lie there, don’t do anything else. If you don’t recall a dream immediately, see if you feel a particular emotion—the whole dream would come flooding back.

Studies also reveals that lucid dreaming– dreaming that we are dreaming, can also be enhanced by practice. By reminding yourself you want to just as you’re falling asleep, either as a verbal statement or idea: “Tonight when I dream, I want to realize I’m dreaming.” This is the most important thing, the researchers say other than getting enough sleep.

There are evidences that suggest even one can control the dream of other person, but the extend of which is still unknown.

The study of sleep and dreams combines the knowledge of biology and psychology. Through a combination of these fields, researches are going on in various parts of the world to unlock some of the biggest mysteries of human mind.

References:

1. Scientific American July 29, 2010

2. Wikipedia

3. Some more websites

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