Why do so many of us dream about flying, falling or being chased?

fall girl
Image credit: Lukas Berta

Most of us experience these so-called “typical dreams” during our lifetime. Around three-quarters of people dream of falling, for instance, and that rate is similar across cultures.

So given the incredibly rich and complex creativity of the dreaming brain, why do some themes routinely appear?

In REM sleep, brain wave activity increases to near waking levels, as do heart rate and blood pressure, and breathing becomes faster and irregular.


But when the alert, REM-sleeping brain becomes aware of the paralysed body, typical dreams can rear their head.

This means that when neurons responsible for waking you start to, well, wake up, so too do the neighbouring vestibular system cells, creating the sensation of being weightless, flying, falling — or even floating around as a disembodied head. As the reticular system becomes more activated, so too does the feeling of flying or falling.


Related article:  Alzheimer’s research is stuck on a ‘single, unproven hypothesis’. It’s time to explore new theories

If you go to bed in a bad, stressed or unhappy mood, it might set the scene for a similarly themed falling dream — a bit like when I feel like I’m plummeting to my doom. But if you’re particularly happy, you might dream that you’re soaring through the night sky, looking at the stars.

Read full, original post: Why dreams like flying, falling, being chased are so common, and how your brain creates them

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