Sleep is for dreaming

2 min readJun 29


Flaming June, by Frederic Lord Leighton (1830–1896)

We all dream. It is an activity reserved for sentient beings. Computers can’t do it.

Something happens when we are asleep, disconnected from the external world and all its stimuli, that is little short of magic. While our bodies rest, our brains become busy sorting information and processing emotions based on the experiences of our waking lives.

Dreams have mystified humankind since the beginning of time and have been a philosophical, artistic and religious interest throughout history, represented as premonitions of the future, messages from the gods, or the supernatural. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud heralded the scientific study of dreams with the publication of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’. While everybody knows that sleep is essential for good health, there is still a school of thought that dreams do not serve a specific function in our lives; however, recent research by modern neuroscientists is challenging that belief.

In his recent studies, Dr Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, says,

“It’s said that time heals all wounds, but my research suggests that time spent in dream sleep is what heals.”

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe, Sleeping Woman, (1890)

Dreaming occurs in the REM sleep phase, equating to about 2 hours a night when our subconscious minds connect with mental images and become active in processing information and memories that they deem instrumental to us in waking hours. Recent theories suggest that dreams can improve our coping mechanisms, build long-term memories and boost creativity, which sounds great in an era when depression and anxiety rates are rising globally. If dreaming, as Walker calls it, is equivalent to ‘ then his findings are a wake-up call to us all, not just the romantics and stargazers.

This summer, we recommend trying to remember your dreams before checking your phone first thing in the morning. To celebrate dreaming, we have selected some of art’s most iconic depictions of sleeping subjects and added a little incentive to stop checking social media under the duvet and wake up with beauty!

Dante Gabriele Rossetti, The Bower Rose Buscot Park (1885)

Originally published at




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