Dream Interpretation: What Do Dreams Mean?

By Nicole McDermott, Mar 10, 2022

“Why we dream is uncertain, but we do know that the brain does a lot of cleanup and memory packaging—and rehearsing—during the night,” says Alex Dimitriu, M.D., a double board-certified physician in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California.

Dr. Dimitriu believes dreams can be random and may just be the brain having fun experimenting with loose connections and ideas. “Dreams can also be based on reality—based on the happenings in our lives and the concerns on our minds,” he says.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, coined the term “day residue” to explain how we continue working on a specific problem or plan for an upcoming event in our sleep. “Whatever is on your mind by day could be reflected in your dreams at night,” says Dr. Dimitriu. “The brain continues to problem solve long after you’re asleep.”

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