Everyone dreams. Sometimes, we can remember bits and pieces of what we dream. If a particular dream is memorable, we might reflect on it. Dreams can be happy, scary, sad, intense, erotic and more, and by writing them down, we can become more present and aware of ourselves.

Why Do We Dream, Anyway?

If you suffer from nightmares and bad dreams, you may wonder why we dream. Some people have a difficult time getting restful sleep because of their dreams. Basically, dreams show that our brains can create a new set of experiences without our conscious control.

Neuroscience is now able to relate dreams and our underlying brain activity. As technology improves, our understanding of why dreams happen and what they are has improved, but we still have many unanswered questions.

Dreams occur during various stages of our sleep. REM sleep, or rapid eye movement, tends to produce more dreams, but we don’t seem to be able to remember these as readily. There is no one clear answer to why we dream, but scientists believe dreams could help as:1

  • Fight or flight training: The amygdala is very active when we dream. Part of the ancient limbic system, the amygdala processes emotions, fear and our survival instinct. Essentially, we might be practising for threatening situations while we sleep.
  • Memory aides: Over a hundred years of research has shown that sleep benefits memory retention. We remember things better if we have slept on that information first. It’s generally believed that dreams help us process important information while blocking anything that could inhibit memory formation.
  • Therapy: We all face emotional traumas in our lives. Because the amygdala is so active, our brain may confront emotional issues that we prefer to ignore or bury in our waking life.
  • Muses: Artists have long mentioned dreams as inspiration, and the ideas that we experience while dreaming may be uninhibited by the restrictions we put upon ourselves. Even the expression “dream big” demonstrates the potential value dreams have on creativity.
  • Road markers for mental health: Nightmares can be a sign of PTSD, depression or anxiety. Stressful and disturbing dreams can indicate these and other health conditions, so see your physician if your nightmares are impacting your daily life.2

Why Should You Write Down Your Dreams?

As a leader, you may brush off an occasional vivid or noteworthy dream. But, these dreams are usually so fleeting. If you don’t write it down, it will be lost. You can increase agility by working your unconscious brain muscles, because the more you write notes to help you remember dreams, the better you’ll be able to recall information.  

Writing down your dreams can also help you see patterns that occur in your life. If something is bothering you at work, these feelings can manifest in your dreams. When you have a clear, written record, you can compare notes to your real life and see what your intuition is trying to tell you.

For the best results, devote a small journal or notebook to recording dreams. You can even use a calendar with larger blocks for each day. Keep this journal and a pen or pencil beside your bed, and when you wake up, spend a minute or two jotting down anything you can remember.

As time passes, you’ll likely see themes which pop up again and again. Take notice of what your inner voice is trying to say. Your dreams are an untapped resource, so use them to discover a hidden part of yourself that only you can truly see.  

Follow your intuition, listening to your dreams, your inner voice to guide you.

Katori Hall, Playwrite

Leadership, Sleep And Dream

When leaders dream big and have the agility and intuition to follow through, great things can happen for an organisation. Creating a vision for the future is crucial to inspire others to see and follow your dreams. To learn about how sleep impacts your leadership abilities, watch the film Make Me A Leader.

1. Roland J. Why Do We Dream? Healthline. 2017.
2. Drerup M. Why Do We Dream--The Short Answer from a Sleep Psychologist. Cleveland Clinic. 2017. 

Originally posted on: 6 June 2019
Last updated on: 12 April 2024

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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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