NPR

Forget Freud: Dreams Replay Our Everyday Lives

Sigmund Freud thought dreams were all about wish fulfillment and repressed desire. But scientists now think they're linked to memory processing and consciousness. And they're often quite mundane.
Source: Jennifer Qian for NPR

Thanks to Sigmund Freud, we all know what it means to dream about swords, sticks and umbrellas. Or maybe we don't.

"For 100 years, we got stuck into that Freudian perspective on dreams, which turned out to be not scientifically very accurate," says Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "So it's only been in the last 15 to 20 years that we've really started making progress."

Today, most brain scientists reject Freud's idea that dreams are highly symbolic representations of unconscious (and usually sexual) desire. That dream umbrella, they say, is probably just an umbrella.

But researchers are still trying to figure out what dreams do represent, and what their purpose is.

"There's not really a solid theory about why dreaming is there," says Benjamin Baird, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Sleep and

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