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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream                              by Ashley Lacasse

My mom was getting so skinny. She was usually so pessimistic about her health and about daily life, but she was finally sputtering off positive thoughts and words of encouragement. When the funeral finally arrived, my best friend and my ex-boyfriend didn’t even come with me. I woke up absolutely devastated and realized it was all a dream.

Thank God I woke up.

My mom died, no one was there to support me and everything was turning upside down. What was this dream telling me? My first instinct was to feel scared, but when I sought comfort in my Everything Dreams Book, by Trish and Rob MacGregor, which offers insights on meanings of dreams, I was comforted to discover dreaming about death does not necessarily foreshadow that person's demise.

Dreams are something we all have in common, even if we can’t remember them. Most of us have probably wondered what they mean, if there was a reason we were having them. Sometimes we may even wake up hoping a dream was actually reality.

The best time to try to tackle a dream is right after having one. Amy Hale, a certified hypnotherapist in Ann Arbor, said more often than not, people understand the meaning of their dreams upon waking up from their slumber. She also said the dreamer is the best interpreter, not a book or a psychologist. In extreme cases, hypnotherapy could help by focusing the brain, which allows for a better perspective on interpretation of dreams, events and emotions.

Anne Minniberg, a hypnotherapist in Ann Arbor, said it’s common for people to dream more at different times in their lives, depending on their feelings. “Some people who are stressed or traumatized may be working out the trauma through their dreams,” Minniberg said. “This can be a very useful, therapeutic tool in recovery, as it would provide people useful, therapeutic information.”

Heather Doepke, psychology sophomore, agrees with Minniberg. "I think I'm more likely to have a dream when I'm happy," Doepke said. "When I'm stressed out or upset, I can't even get a good night's sleep, let alone concentrate on dreaming."

Dreaming is an important part of the sleep process. Dreaming is needed to process emotional data such as fear or excitement, Hale said. “People who are good at remembering their dreams will often notice differences in their emotional content.”

Even sexually intimate dreams, or dreams about sex itself, are healthy and common for people of all ages to experience. Unfortunately, Hale said if you’re dreaming about a rendezvous with your favorite Hollywood star, it’s more likely a dream of desire, not a prophecy.

Minniberg said dreams about sexual intimacy are most likely wishes that may be unfulfilled, traumatic sexual encounters from the past or pleasant memories of previous encounters. Hale also said everyone has dreams of intimacy, which can range from a touch-and-go all the way to animalistic attraction. “They are still quite healthy and can often determine what a person needs or desires from a relationship,” she said.

Alan Keating, a general business/management freshman, said that dreams gives you a good look into what a person is feeling at that time in their lives. "Dreaming is free thinking without other people's interjections," Keating said. "They don't tell you anything about the person, just them at the time of the dream."

Contrary to what we might think, Hale said all our dreams unfold in color. But, just because we all dream in color, that doesn't mean we will recall the images as such. "It's interesting that because our dreams fade so quickly upon awakening, we often recall them in gray tones," Hale said.

Not all of us can remember our dreams upon waking, Hale said the average person experiences dreams nightly. “Since our conscious is asleep, it is often difficult to recall that dream actually occurred,” Hale said. “We dream during the REM cycle of our sleep time. Without it, a person is likely to hallucinate in their waking moments.”

Bottom line: sleep and dreams are important. They offer insight to our actual feelings about our daily lives and also make us aware of our wants and desires. Naturally, the only way to have a dream is during sleep, which is very important both psychologically and physically. Minniberg warns, without sleep, people begin to suffer detrimental physical and emotional problems, as well as impaired perception.

Physically, lack of sleep deprives the body of energy it needs to replenish what it lost during the day. If we avoid sleep, our body will shut itself down by either weakening the immune system or making the body more susceptible to illness. "During REM, we dream - without reaching REM, the possibility of a person hallucinating, shadows, insects, voices or other things could begin to happen," Hale said.

Without the necessary time our body and mind need to get rest and to digress through dreaming, we won't have a sufficient amount of energy to stay productive. As a result, our thoughts are likely to become more depressed and possibly counter-productive.

Although we may not be able to understand them immediately, dreams play an important role in keeping us healthy and in touch with our subconscious. But remember, not all dreams need interpretation — some are just that: a dream.

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