Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Mental Health Center

Font Size

The Health Benefits of Dreams

Researchers now believe that dreams help us process emotions, consolidate memories, and more.
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Sometimes dreams make a lot of sense -- like when we’ve been working hard and we end up dreaming, alas, that we’re still at work. Other times the meaning of dreams is less clear. That doesn’t mean the dream isn’t important to our well-being, however.

Retired teacher Barbara Kern can vividly recall the details of a dream she had nearly four decades ago, for instance. “I’m lying on my back, holding the bottom rungs of a fireman’s ladder that has been extended to its full height,” she explains. “A boy is at the top of the ladder, swaying it back and forth, while I try to control it, but I can’t and I’m afraid he’s going to fall.”

Recommended Related to Mental Health

Melissa Rivers Advocates for Suicide Prevention

Melissa Rivers is used to voicing her opinion. Funny and outspoken -- like her mother, comedian Joan Rivers --she's best known for E!'s pre-Oscars fashion and interview show Live with Joan and Melissa. She’s candidly shared her views in forums ranging from NBC's Celebrity Apprentice to her popular self-help book, Red Carpet Ready: Secrets for Making the Most of Any Moment You're in the Spotlight. Now, she's partnered with the Jed Foundation to raise awareness about mental illness and help prevent...

Read the Melissa Rivers Advocates for Suicide Prevention article > >

For Kern, 79, who now lives in Lakewood, N.J., the dream was a symbolic expression of real-life concerns about her ability to reach a boy with severe learning problems whom she remembers as “one of the most challenging students I ever taught.” She characterizes the dream as a nightmare, recalling that it kept her up half the night.

Dreams, memories, and emotions

The dream -- likely a means of coping with a major life stress --helped Kern, explains researcher Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at Rush University in Chicago. “It’s almost like having an internal therapist, because you associate [through dreams] to previous similar feelings, and you work through the emotion related to it so that it is reduced by morning.”

Although some researchers believe dreams are just a byproduct of sleep, others think dreams are important for memory consolidation or conflict resolution. Cartwright has found clues to suggest that dreams may help with mood regulation.

Dreams occur during both REM (rapid-eye-movement) and non-REM sleep, but sleep studies show that brain activity is heightened during REM periods. When sleep-study participants are wakened during the first non-REM period, those who recall their dreams tend to report thinking about a piece of emotional unfinished business. The dreamer may then restate or reshape the problem in a different form during the next REM cycle, and so on, through the night.

Today on WebMD

Differences between feeling depressed or feeling blue.
lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
man screaming
Causes, symptoms, and therapies.
woman looking into fridge
When food controls you.
Woman standing in grass field barefoot, wind blowi
senior man eating a cake
woman reading medicine warnings
depressed young woman
man with arms on table
man cringing and covering ears

WebMD Special Sections