Dr Rahul Jandial explains why we dream and the reason we don’t remember them

Virgin Radio

22 Apr 2024, 11:03

Rahul Jandial talks to Chris Evans at Virgin Radio

Credit: Virgin Radio

American neurosurgeon and neuro-biologist Dr Rahul Jandial visited Virgin Radio to speak all about dreams. 

Dr Rahul’s new book, This Is Why You Dream: What Your Sleeping Brain Reveals About Your Waking Life, is out now and sees the author use research and stories from his own practice to show the extraordinary impact which dreams have on our waking life. 

Joining the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar, the author said: “When you look at different cultures over centuries, they're still reporting dreams of falling, dreams of teeth falling out. And it made me think - because they follow rules - can these patterns be explained with brain biology? And more than ever now, we have some answers to that.”

He continued: “Nightmares, 90-something percent of people report nightmares. I don't have to tell you what a nightmare is. Erotic dreams tend to happen a lot. And just underneath that you have sort of showing up for a podium naked before a speech, or missing an exam when you have an exam planned. These patterns have followed for centuries. And the question is, why?”

The doctor explained: “It's because they're symbolic. That represents something social, and is based on anxiety and emotional concerns, not logic. And that's the power of dreaming. It's a hyper-emotional state, hyper visual state that you can't get to with the waking brain. And when I thought about that, I was inspired. This is a portal to self-exploration that does not exist while we're awake.”

Saying that “we dream to remain imaginative and creative and adaptive” the dual-trained neurosurgeon and neuro-biologist Rahul told Chris: “When you look at the dreaming brain, it's electrically on fire. So this myth about when you sleep, your brain is resting, no, your body's resting. Your brain electricity is through the roof, your metabolic usage is still there. So what's going on in the brain that's so important, that forces us all to sleep. I think, if I can be bold, we sleep in order to dream, and what part of our body needs to dream? It's the brain.”

On the question of why we don’t remember our dreams, Rahul said: “I think the simple answer is so that we don't have waking-life and dream-life confusion. We want to stitch the waking life memories together. That's something called autobiographical memory. But dreams, if you want to dream, if you try to dream, if you try to remember your dreams, it is inducible. And I would explain it like a placebo effect. If you believe in something, even if it doesn't have a bioactive chemical, there's something in your mind the neurotransmitters that create that state.

“So, people report in dream journals, all these different things that they start to remember more of their dreams. And if it's a hyper-visual hyper emotional state, illogical by design, I think that's a good way to think about what's going on in your life, rather than turning to wellness externally, is to think about that portal of your own thoughts that you have every day.”

Having explained that “the techniques used for sleep paralysis are also the same techniques we use for general anxiety management,” Rahul also touched further on the topic of Nightmares, telling Chris: “Nightmares can be re-scripted. I was fascinated by this. They're a product of our imagination. And with therapists, there are reports that the ending of a nightmare, if you're having persistent nightmares, can be re-scripted with therapy, imagery rehearsal training. The other thing I want people to know about nightmares, is they’re a psychological thermometer. If we have headaches, and they're getting worse, we know to call the doctor. If we have pain, and it's getting worse, we know to get a doctor. If you have new onset nightmares. And they're increasing and they're getting worse, consider it a psychological thermometer and talk to a therapist or a doctor.”

He continued: “On the occasions we can remember dreams, there are some that I think are worth taking a deeper look at. The obvious ones, showing them naked for the podium, we know what that is, right? Some, some are just static. They just don’t make sense at all. Some are epic dreams that happen. End of Life, people have certain dreams, pregnant women have certain dreams. So those don't really require interpretation. But a deeply emotional one, a deeply visual one, that's the one to go after. That's the one that take time during the day and say, ‘Oh, what was that about? What was that social situation about? It was a visual situation about.’ That's something I've definitely included in my life.

Rahul added: “Dreams can be induced, dreams can be remembered, dreams serve a vital function in us. And I'm grateful that the human brain dreams, because it keeps us vibrant, flexible in our thinking, imaginative, able to connect with people in a social setting that we wouldn't otherwise. And I think for me personally, what I've done is really tried to protect the 15 minutes before I go to sleep, and the five, ten minutes when I wake up.”

This Is Why You Dream is out now.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with webuyanycar weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.