With a background in neuroscience, dreams have always fascinated me. They can seem so real — to the point that you wake up totally shocked and confused. Yep, the brain is a fascinating organ, and many neuroscientists believe they’re now unlocking the meaning behind some of the most common dreams.
You know, like when you’re falling. This is believed to mean that you are holding on to a specific situation in your waking life too tightly. Another common dream? Being naked in public, which suggests you feel vulnerable due to circumstances in your waking life.
If this is true, and your dreams are somewhat “communicating” with you, could you also uncover possible variables that are currently impacting your health?
What are dreams and why do we have them?
Although we have come a long way, dreams are still in many ways, a mystery.
What we do know, is that dreams are essentially a state of consciousness. That is why your experiences while dreaming can feel so real — almost as if you were in your waking life. While it may feel as though you are seeing and hearing things, your dream is essentially imagery.
Back in the days of Sigmund Freud, he suggested that dreams were based on our inner wishes. The type of wishes we would think about while we were awake. Now, decades later, researchers are still debating this topic. I remember one of my professors telling us that dreams were a way for our neurons to undergo a “cleansing” process.
However, there are many hypotheses. Of the possible explanations, dreams tend to be seen universally as experiences that provide hints about our body, soul, and the world around us. In fact, it is believed that vivid dreams may correlate with our well-being.
The connection between your dreams and overall wellbeing
The human body and mind are incredibly complex. Since there are nerves coming to the brain from just about every area of the body, signals may be sent to warn about impending illness. Many experts agree that these dreams may be your subconscious translating these signals into dreams.
Although this connection is still somewhat controversial, there is a fair amount of research supporting this theory. After all, when an illness or disease first develops in the body, it can typically be detected prior to the conscious recognition of symptoms.
For example, before you know that you have an infection, a blood test would be able to detect key physiological warning signs. As your body undergoes these changes, your brain is able to detect them on a subconscious level. This is when prodromal dreams are believed to surface.
The content of these dreams is relevant, as well as their intensity and length. Meaning, if you are having lengthy dreams that are bizarre and distressing, your body may be preparing you for illness. This leads to the burning question on everyone’s mind — what are your dreams trying to tell you?
Things your dreams can tell you about your health
The research on prodromal dreams ranges from the common cold to cancer. If this theory is true, shifts in your dream content may provide warning signs about the following illnesses and diseases.
1. Breast cancer
In 2015, data was published on eighteen women in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. These women were sourced from around the globe, including the UK, the United States, Columbia and Austria. They had vivid dreams that warned them of breast cancer, all experiencing five common characteristics.
In descending order of frequency, these characteristics included a sense of conviction about the importance (94 percent); more intense, real, or vivid dreaming (83 percent); an emotional sense of threat (72 percent); the specific words “breast cancer” or “tumor” (44 percent); a sense of physical contact with the breast (39 percent).
Incredibly, in more than half of these cases, women consulted doctors. They were able to provide the location of their suspecting tumors which led to a diagnosis.
2. Neurodegenerative diseases
Neurological research has shown that when patients first experience aggressive, violent dreams where they tend to physically act them out, this could be an early warning sign of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In some cases, these signs appeared up to ten years before the first symptoms surfaced.
3. Thyroid or other throat issues
Some psychologists have suggested that thyroid issues may require your attention if you have dreams about an injury to your throat. Some common examples are being bitten by a vampire or being attacked by a dog in this general region. The key appears to be dreams that repeatedly expose you to this level of injury.
This relates to all areas of your body, so be mindful of which body part is continuously showing up in your dreams. Although these dreams may be a result of stress or other variables in your waking life, if you have these types of warning dreams, seek a medical opinion.
From the development of sore throats to possible imagery regarding a severe illness, our body and mind are connected. If you believe that your dreams have recently changed and are rather distressing, it is recommended that you keep a dream journal.
Although this area of research is still developing, this is your opportunity to listen to your body. In some cases, it may be nothing — but in others, you may have the opportunity to become empowered and give your body what it needs.
After all, Terri Guillemets hit the nail on the head when she said, “Some colors exist in dreams that are not present in the waking spectrum.” Sleep, dream and listen.
— Krista Hillis