Have you ever wondered exactly what dreams are for? Well, Professor Matthew Walker has the clearest answer yet, stating that dreaming is a key tool in creativity and problem solving, as well as providing personal therapy.
Professor Walker’s research suggests that time spent in dream sleep is what heals emotional wounds, rather than sleep itself, as the old adage goes.
“REM-sleep dreaming appears to take the painful sting out of difficult, even traumatic, emotional episodes experienced during the day, offering emotional resolution when you awake the next morning,” Professor Walker writes.
He adds: “REM sleep is the only time when our brain is completely devoid of the anxiety-triggering molecule noradrenaline.
“At the same time, key emotional and memory-related structures of the brain are reactivated during REM sleep as we dream.
“This means that emotional memory reactivation is occurring in a brain free of a key stress chemical, which allows us to re-process upsetting memories in a safer, calmer environment.”
Because of this research, dreaming has the potential to help people de-escalate emotional stress.
This notion is reaffirmed in a study by Murray Raskind on war vets with PTSD.
When administered with the drug Prazosin (a medication that lowers blood pressure and also acts as a blocker of the brain stress chemical noradrenaline) the vets had fewer nightmares and fewer PTSD symptoms than those given a placebo.