9 surprising facts about dreams that may help you understand yours

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Laurie Lowenberg, author of the book "Dream On It, Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life," shares a handful of insights about dreams that may help you better understand what yours really mean.

1. Twilight, Avatar, Google, the sewing machine. These were all inspired by actual REM dreams that we all have when we sleep. Throughout history, artists, writers, inventors and scientists have solved problems and drawn great inspiration from their dreams. You might be surprised how many great ideas and personal solutions you are literally “dreaming up” each and every night too.

2. You dream every night for 90 minutes whether you remember it or not. Every cycle of dreaming grows in duration throughout the night. The first dream of the night may only be 3 minutes and the last dream you have before waking in the morning (provided you had a good 7 to 8 hours of sleep) can be 45-60 minutes. On average, you will dream about 5 times every night.

3. The ancient Romans thought dreams were messages from the gods. Many took long pilgrimages to dream temples, where they spent the night hoping to receive a dream of wisdom or healing.

4. The Bible has more than 700 references to dreams and visions. These suggest dreams are messages from God or His angels.

5. Dreams are thoughts. When you are dreaming, you are thinking, but on a much deeper and focused level than when you’re awake. Think about it: when you go to sleep the lights are off, your eyes are closed and the world around you is shut out. There are no distractions. The mind doesn’t stop working at this point. Whatever your stream of thought is as you drift off continues, and begins to go inward. As your conscious, waking, literal mind slips into a state of rest, your deep inner subconscious mind takes over.

6. Once you enter REM sleep, dreaming begins. This means some very serious and deep thinking is now happening. The waking stream of thought, that uses words and that your conscious mind had control of, is now controlled by your inner subconscious mind. It's no longer using just words, but is also using images, experiences and emotions. Your thoughts have turned into dreams.

7. When you are dreaming, you are thinking with metaphors. “He’s as healthy as a horse" or “it’s raining cats and dogs out there.” Metaphors compare two things in order to create a picture that helps us make our point. The next time you have a conversation, try to take a mental note of how many metaphors are used between you and the other person. You’d probably be surprised how quickly the tally will go up. We naturally communicate this way. Dreams work in the same way. But rather than speaking the metaphor, they bring it to life.

8. Our dreams will show us how to handle specific problems. Through our dreams, we speak to ourselves about what is going on in our lives, how we guide ourselves through difficult situations and how we point ourselves towards what we truly need to live the life we are meant to live.

9. Nightmares are caused by difficult, ignored areas of your life.The various themes in your dreams are connected to specific areas of your life or your personality. For example, house dreams are connected to your state of mind and self image. Weather dreams are connected to your emotions.