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Dreaming is the subjective experience of involuntary imaginary images, thoughts or sensations during sleep. Dreaming is associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a lighter form of sleep that occurs during the later portion of the sleep cycle.

Dream imagery ranges from the normal to the surreal; in fact, dreams often provoke artistic and other forms of inspiration. Forms of dream include the frightening or upsetting nightmare and erotic dreams with sexual images and nocturnal emission.

True dreaming has only been confirmed in homo sapiens sapiens, but many believe that dreaming occurs in other animals. Animals certainly undergo REM sleep, but their subjective experience is difficult to determine. The animal with the most periods of REM sleep is the armadillo.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Psychology of dreams
3 Supernatural interpretation of dreams
4 Lucid Dreaming
5 Other meanings
6 See also


Dreams are as old as humanity, if not older. The earliest literature, including Homer's The Odyssey and the biblical book of Genesis, feature dreams prominently.

Many historical figures were reputed to have been influenced by their dreams. Some believed that a god was speaking to them through dreams.

Psychology of dreams

Dreams are, according to some psychologists (most famously, Sigmund Freud), rich in symbolism and offer a window into the unconscious mind. Interpretation of dreams is a regular part of psychoanalysis. It is said that one may control the course and content of dreams by a technique called lucid dreaming. However, this could distract one from the dream-matter provided by the unconscious mind.

Most mainstream academic psychologists do not believe that dreams have a coherent meaning. Carl Jung's view of dreams was more precise than this: that dreams have meanings, but their meanings are idiosyncratic, complicated, and not susceptible to more than vague, uncertain, and sometimes superficial interpretations. In particular, interpretation needs to be based on the thoughts of the individual dreamer, and not on any formula.

The art of interpreting dreams from a proto-pyschological point of view is known as oneirocriticism. The usage of this now obselete word occurs at the conclusion of Sir Thomas Browne's 1658 Discourse The Garden of Cyrus:

Besides Hippocrates hath spoken so little, and the Oneirocritical Masters have left such frigid interpretations from plants that there is little encouragement to dream of Paradise itself.

Supernatural interpretation of dreams

Oneiromancy is the art of divination by interpreting dreams.

Lucid Dreaming

In simple terms, lucid dreaming is 'dreaming whilst being aware of dreaming'. This adds numerous extra abilities to the dreamer. Firstly, the dreamer has full awareness that the situation he is in is a construct of his mind, and thus can analyse the situation logically and react accordingly. Secondly, he has control of the direction of the dream and can thus explore the dream world. This new found control is helpful during nightmares in particular, when the dream self can turn round and face the attacker, and confront or destroy it. Thirdly, the dream self has direct control of the environment, and hence can do things impossible in real life, such as the ability to summon objects, polymorph, or fly.

Lucid dreams can occur spontaneously, especially during youth, but for lucid dream to occur more frequently, dedication and practice is almost always necessary.

Lucid Dreamers are those who practice lucid dreaming frequently for personal or spiritual gain. They usually induce lucid dreams through the use of one of many induction techniques, which can be categorized into those which induce DILDs (Dream-Initiated Lucid Dreams) and those which induce WILDs (Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreams). DILDs start as non-lucid dreams, but the dreamer realizes they're dreaming. WILDs are induced by creating a constant stream of consciousness between waking and sleeping, hence preserving conscious logic and reasoning — in a WILD, the dream self is lucid from the beginning of the dream. These uses of "WILD" and "DILD" have mostly fallen into disuse (or rather they mostly never came into use), though "WILD" is often used to refer to any technique in general that happens to induce a wake-initiated lucid dream, by moving directly from conscious wakefulness to conscious dreaming.

See the Lucid Dreaming section for a more in-depth look at the subject.

Other meanings

A dream is also a long-term hope, e.g. in I have a dream. It often has a positive connotation and is associated with achievement.

The term "dreamer" is used to ridicule someone who has hopes for something unlikely, or mistakenly believes something. This usage is especially associated with the term "pipe dream", which literally refers to a fantasy induced by opium.

"Dreaming" is also a song; see Fresh Cream.

The Dream is a sports comedy talk show presented by Roy and HG during the 2000 Summer Olympics.

The Dreaming or Dreamtime is an Australian Aboriginal creation myth.

See also