David K. Randall's best-selling book Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep explores the darkest recesses of our sleeping and waking brains in search of the meaning behind our dreams... and our nightmares. Published last year, the book made several year's-best nonfiction book lists, and was recently the focus of an in-depth article by Maria Popova at her weekly “interestingness digest,” Brain Pickings.
In his book, Randall examines the evolution of dream research, and Popova compares his findings with those documented by Sigmund Freud in his 1900 thesis The Interpretation of Dreams, which for much of the past century represented Psychology's most comprehensive dream study. Randall also examines the work of Calvin Hall, whose data-based studies in the 1950s directly contradicted many of Freud's long-accepted theories, and broke new ground in the field of dream research.
The article also examines the theories of Ernest Hartmann, who considers dreams to be “a form of built-in nocturnal therapy” where the mind uses its resources to diminish the “threat level” of emotional traumas and file them into its long-term memory, and raises the idea that people could learn to control and master their dreams.
Check out the entire article for more intriguing ideas about dreams and nightmares, and pick up a copy of Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep.