The Subconscious Mind

Mykala Caraccilo

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Whether it’s entertaining, disturbing, or downright bizzare, the act of dreaming, while not entirely understood yet, is becoming more and more clear as modern research progresses.

What happens during dreaming?

As stated by, during dreams the whole brain is active from the brain stem to the cortex. Most of this dreaming occurs during REM (rapid eye movement sleep). This is a part of the sleep-wake cycle, and it is controlled by the reticular activating system.

“I had a dream that I ate a whole bottle of talcum powder and was allergic to it and couldn’t breathe,” former LHS student Marie Caraccilo said.

According to, Francesca Siclari, co-author of the research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, and other colleagues from the US, Switzerland, and Italy, revealed how they carried out experiments with 46 patients, each of whom had an EEG — a noninvasive technique that places 256 electrodes on the scalp and face to monitor the number and size of different wave lengths — hooked up to their brain to record their sleeping patterns.

“Last night I had a dream that everyone’s head turned into lion heads and they started eating each other,” sophomore Feliciana Otano said.

All involved participants were woke up at various points in the night, and were asked whether they were dreaming or not.

“Overall in the whole experiment we did over 1,000 awakenings,” Siclari said.

Analysis of this study showed that dreaming is linked to a drop in low frequency activity in a region at the back of the brain called the “posterior cortical hot zone” by researchers. This is a place in the brain involving visual areas and areas involving integrating the senses. This result stayed constant whether the dream was remembered or not and whether is occurred in REM or non-REM sleep.

“One time I had a dream where I adopted 6 dogs and we just had a fun time together,” senior Colten Carney said. “I thought it was real for a while.”

Going further into the research, the team identified the region of the brain that appears to be important when it comes to remembering dreams. They found that this was linked to an increase in high frequency activity towards the front of the brain.

What part of the brain do dreams come from?

The limbic system in the mid brain, including the amygdala — which is mostly associated with fear and is especially active during dreams — deals with emotions in both waking and dreaming.

“Sometimes I think it’s so cool when I’m doing something during the day and I feel like I’ve been there before, like in a dream I’ve had or something,” senior Tyler Kobulnicky said.

The cortex, which is the largest part of the human brain, is responsible for the content of dreams, including the monsters we flee from, the people we meet, or the experience of flying. The visual cortex, at the back of the brain, is especially active, as are many other parts of the cortex. The least active parts of the brain during dreaming, are in the frontal lobe, which can explain why we can be so uncritical during dreams, believing the crazy events as if they are real in our sleep.

“So in my dream last night, I killed this guy and the police started investigating and they came to my door and were asking around, but I wasn’t home, and I got really scared and only one person had known that I killed this person except for one person and I told them where I was to come pick me up and then I just woke up,” senior Noah Watkins said. “I never have cool dreams like that very often.”

Because the parietal lobe is responsible for all of the different senses together, it is believed that this is the imaginary space where dreams are generated from. This is why people who have suffered from a stroke, and have had damage to their parietal lobe, can have a complete absence of dreams.

What causes different types of dreams?

Everyone dreams in a variety of different ways, some more aware of their dreams than others.

“Last night I had a dream that I broke my leg and I was trapped in my house,” senior Nathen Stelter said.

Nightmares are one of the most common types of dreams, the kind that wakes you up at night scared as if whatever horrific event that was going on, was actually happening. These scary dreams are often caused by: stress, conflict, fear, anxiety, trauma, medication or drug use, emotional problems, or illness.

“I’ve had scary-ish dreams where someone is trying to kill me or breaking into my house, but I’ve never had a true nightmare,” Junior Jordan Donlon said.

Another kind of dream that many people fantasize about is, lucid dreaming. A lucid dream occurs when a person knows that they’re dreaming inside of their dream. This dreaming is caused by an increased activation of parts of the brain that are normally suppressed during sleep, and it represents a brain state somewhere in between REM sleep and being awake. Some people who are lucid dreamers are often able to influence the direction in which their dream is going.

Then there are those dreams that are just downright bizarre. According to the article, “7 Reasons Why You’re Having Whacked Out Dreams,” by Krissy Brady, possible culprits behind this are:

  • Eating spicy foods before bed

This might trigger crazy dreams by increasing metabolism and body temperature, which can increase brain activity, especially during REM sleep.

  • Taking melatonin supplements

These can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, which is good for those who need it, but reintroducing one’s self to REM sleep can cause crazy dreams because the  body will be trying to make up for lost time.

  • Watching TV right before bed

Some say that dreams come from the subconscious mind, so if a person watches a show or movie that has a dramatic and emotional component for someone, may make their mind put a more significant meaning on it, thus causing it to come out in dreams, which can lead to some pretty crazy ones.

  • Stopping a medication

Stopping medications, that have been know to suppress dreams especially, can cause dreams to come back in full force. The result is a flood of very vivid dreams, to include nightmares.

  • Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea messes with a person’s breathing during sleep. In the process, this drop of oxygen that happens while dreaming can cause pretty vivid and disturbing dreams.

  • Not sleeping well the night before

When someone is sleep deprived there’s a good chance that they’ll experience a more intense dose of REM sleep, causing them to have more intense dreams.

  • Stress

The stress and anxiety a person goes through during the day can do a number on dreams, because that could be the brain’s way of letting out the negative emotions.

Why can some people only remember some dreams and not others?

Researchers aren’t completely sure why people can’t remember most of their dreams. Some say it could be because if people remembered all of their dreams, they wouldn’t be able to distinguish dreams from real memories.

“I can never remember any of my dreams well enough to describe them afterwards,” senior Tyler Kobulnicky said.

It could also be because while people are sleeping and dreaming, their body may shut down certain systems in their brain responsible for creating memories. This could explain why people may only occur just before wakening, when certain brain activities and systems have turned back on.

“Most of the time I can’t remember my dreams after I wake up,” senior Tyler Williams said.

Some researchers take a different approach on this matter. These group of people say that maybe the human mind doesn’t actually forget dreams, people just don’t know how to access them. These dreams way be stored in our memory, waiting to be triggered and brought to light again. This could explain why someone might suddenly remember a dream later in the day.

Why do people get the same reoccurring dream?

According to the article “What’s Behind Your Recurring Dreams,” by Michelle Carr, theoretically, recurrent dreams are thought to reveal the presence of unresolved conflicts are stressors. In saying this, recurrent dreams are normally accompanied by negative content.

“A dream that I have that always reoccurs is me being chased by vampires through my neighborhood while it’s Halloween,” senior Natalie Wood said. “There’s one time where the dream happened over the span of a week.”

The common themes within in recurrent dreams are being attacked, chased, falling, being stuck, being late, and even losing control of a car.

“Every Christmas I get the same dream that this snow guy hunts my family in my house,” junior Tyler Kane said. “We have to play hide and seek in the house to try and get away from the guy.”

Recurrent dreams often start at a young age and seem to vanish for periods of time, returning again during a time of stress.

Why do we dream?

Although there are many theories as to why we dream, no one knows for sure why these surreal images play through the brain during sleep. Many researchers have differing opinions on the concept of dreams, some say that they have no purpose or meaning, while others say they are necessary for physical, mental, and emotional help.

“I had a dream all my friends and I lived in the North Pole and that Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez got married and had gorgeous kids,” freshman Kendra Schneider said.

According to the article “Facts About Dreaming,” published by, researchers have found that people who do not experience dreams experience: increased tension, anxiety, depression,difficulty concentrating, lack of coordination, weight gain, and tendency to hallucinate.

“I used to sleep walk every night when I was younger,” former LHS student Zach Caraccilo says. “I think the scariest time was when I walked out the front door and started running down my street. Luckily my mom heard it and came and got me, who knows where I would’ve woken up in the morning.”

There are a lot of varying opinions as to why we dream, some experts think that dreams have no correlation to real emotions or thoughts. Others say dreams may reflect underlying thoughts and feelings, ones that may be our deepest desires, fears, and concerns. This act of dreaming is quite the perplexing process, there are many elements involved that help with the creation of these bizarre, scary, and exciting images that run through the brain at night, and although a lot of research has already been done, it is a process that’s still being uncovered by researchers today.



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