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July 15, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Mad Science – The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Whether it be flying on a Christmas tree with Professor Dumbledore, being eaten alive by tarantulas on the top of Mount Olympus, or getting an A+ in an exam for very important Frisbee qualifications, we all have dreams. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a few more than average. For years, scientists have speculated on what to make of dreams; this week’s Mad Science will focus on what really is going on when we get a bit of shut-eye.

If we were to act out our dreams, our lives would be chaos. Jumping off balconies, kicking walls and tripping over furniture would all be part of the normal night-time routine. Luckily for the sake of New Zealand’s ACC budget, chemicals in the body help keep it paralysed when we dream. Research into rats found that when they blocked both the metabotropic GABAB receptors and the GABAA/glycine ionotropic receptors, the rats moved while dreaming.

While night owls may think staying up is a real hoot, a new study shows that those who hit the hay later have more nightmares. While the exact cause is unclear, the authors of the study speculate that those who are up later might be more likely to have mood disorders and stressful lifestyles.

There is also some merit to the phrase ‘sleeping on it’. Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett had college students pick a fairly easy homework problem to solve in a dream. Students focussed on the problem each night before they went to bed. At the end of a week, about half the students had dreamed about the problem and about a quarter had dreamed the correct answer.

Your personality can also dictate your dreams. Type A personalities (driven people who experience almost constant inner pressure) have more disturbing dreams than their calmer Type B counterparts. Anxious-personality types are more likely to dream of the future. Creative people also get the pleasure of more creative dreams. Introverts recall more of their little everyday dreams than extroverts.

But ultimately, one must refer to the most accurate of all psychologists—Sigmund Freud. He postulated that through your dreams you are able to act out your unconscious. He believed the reason you struggle to remember your dreams is because your super-ego protects your conscious mind from the disturbing images and desires conjured by the unconscious. In simple terms: if you dream about it, then you just can’t handle the truth.

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