COMMENTARY

Why Do We Dream?

Robert A. Berezin, MD

Disclosures

May 18, 2018

Backstage in Our Brain's Living Theater

During sleep, all the organ systems do their metabolic night's work—digestion, detoxification, cellular repair and cell growth, immunologic activity, et cetera. Likewise, the sleep function in our most important organ, the brain, is also for the detoxification and restoration of our consciousness itself. In order for consciousness to be at its best and open to take on tomorrow's challenges, it must digest and detoxify conflicts stirred during the previous day and recent past.

Dreaming's work takes place on the level of images. Consciousness, no longer operative in the theater of reality, now operates in a living theater of the brain doing its sleep work. As the curtain is lifted onto this inner theater, a drama begins onstage. Untethered to reality, it writes its own play, giving us a window into the unadulterated nature of consciousness itself.

Inner dramas triggered by the day's conflicts are the stuff of dreams. Consciousness, in dreams, is not just a reductive brain rehash. Dreams are an alive, creative production of consciousness. Dream enactments take place in the living moment, as do the productions of waking consciousness.

It is also essential to realize that the actual work of a dream is enacted in sleep and has no reference to wakefulness at all. A dream is not dreamed to be seen by an awake person—it is not a production to be shown in your local movie theater or on YouTube®. It is purely intended to be shown on the brain's projection screen in sleep.

A Play Worth Forgetting

The brain routinely does its REM sleep work unremembered. We dream five times a night, only a minor fraction of which are remembered. If the purpose of dreams were for us to acquire information about our waking selves, remembering far less than 1 % of them in some seemingly secret code would be woefully inefficient. This cannot be the purpose of dreaming. Nature does not work this way.

REM sleep is a trance state. There are five trance states in sleep, each with a specific function and a specific brain- wave pattern. Likewise in wakefulness, also a trance, we have a beta brain- wave pattern. Our total consciousness is composed of these shifting synthetic trance states operating throughout the 24-hour cycle. Remembering dreams is an unintended by-product of a blur in the shift on awakening between the REM trance and the trance of wakefulness.

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