OPINION

OPINION | Good night, sweet dreams - but what do they all mean?

DRIFTING OFF: Illustration by Frederick Cayley Robinson from 'The Blue Bird: a fairy play in six acts' by Maurice Maeterlinck (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1920).

DRIFTING OFF: Illustration by Frederick Cayley Robinson from 'The Blue Bird: a fairy play in six acts' by Maurice Maeterlinck (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1920).

Do you dream a lot? Do you remember them?

Some people do, some people don't, I'm not here to judge. But you should know that particularly vivid dreams may mean you're pregnant.

Well, that's one reported cause of intense dreams. Some others are stress, insomnia and cheese at bedtime.

Having experienced all these triggers before in my life, I am fairly familiar with waking up after a big night on the pillow and frantically checking I'm not a) naked in public and b) expected to do a maths exam for which I haven't studied.

Neither of those two things are likely to happen in real life, thank heavens, but it's amazing how convincing dreams can be.

Dreams have long fascinated human beings (and probably other animals, but they can't tell us about it; judging by how much running and whining happens in my dog's dreams, they're pretty fervent).

From Daniel interpreting Pharaoh's dreams in the Old Testament to the kite-string tangle that is the movie Inception, people aren't satisfied with knowing that we dream - they want to know why, and whether they have any meaning beyond randomly firing neurons in our sleeping heads.

In ancient times, dreams were regarded with a seriousness that modern Westerners would today find ludicrous. For example, the Persian king Xerxes I invaded Greece on the basis of a dream - not something that would fly with the UN these days.

The Persian king Xerxes I invaded Greece on the basis of a dream - not something that would fly with the UN these days.

To believe that dreams were prophecy, messages from God or divine inspiration was practically standard throughout most of human history, and there's a little bit of that hanging on for most of us, if we're completely honest.

I, for one, won't be going near any maths courses anytime soon. And I'll always check I'm fully dressed before I leave the house. Those prophecies aren't going to be fulfilled on my watch.

Still others, such as Freud, postulated that dreams were a window to our unconscious, peeling back the curtain on our deepest desires and fears.

There's another theory that dreams are our brains' way of processing information, emotion and experience we accumulate in our waking life, with more than one famous inventor or thinker coming across the solution to a problem in their sleep.

From Einstein's theory of the speed of light to Mendeleev's table of elements, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to Coleridge's Kubla Khan, the list is suprisingly long.

According to the dream experts (yes, that's a job you can do), that desire to find meaning in our dreams has taken on a sense of urgency during the current pandemic, with the hashtags like #CoronaDreams and #coviddreams racking up the tweets, and academic projects like Lockdown Dreams receiving overwhelming amounts of data.

It's no real shock that we're dreaming more, or more vividly, during a time of crisis.

It's almost the perfect storm for dreaming: heightened anxiety and emotion, information overload, longer hours in bed (due to less commuting), and more time to reflect on and remember our dreams.

If that describes you, then all I can say is that no matter what, don't go hunting for meaning on those internet dream dictionary sites. One of them suggested my maths exam dream is because "something doesn't add up" in my life, when I know it's really just traumatic flashbacks from Mrs Kuswadi's maths class c1989. If they get that wrong, what do they know, really?