Common Misconceptions About Dreams

If your nightmares look like Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (1781), we're so sorry.
If your nightmares look like Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (1781), we're so sorry.
Henry Fuseli, Detroit Institute of Arts, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Contrary to what Ebenezer Scrooge initially thought in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, nightmares aren’t merely a side effect of eating cheese before bed. In fact, studies have shown that pre-sleep snacks—dairy or otherwise—probably don’t influence your dreams at all. But even if you can’t blame your latest wacky snooze vision on last night’s midnight helping of chicken nuggets, you can try to trace it back to some stressor from your daily life.

Since dream interpretation isn’t an exact science—and sleep in general is one of science’s murkier territories—quite a few myths have arisen about what, why, and how we dream. In this episode of Misconceptions, Mental Floss's own Justin Dodd walks us through some of the more common fallacies about dreams. (And if you’re convinced you never dream, well, he has some news for you on that front, too.)

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Common Misconceptions About the Middle Ages

An image from a 13th-century French devotional book called the Wenceslaus Psalter.
An image from a 13th-century French devotional book called the Wenceslaus Psalter.
J. Paul Getty Museum // Public Domain

At this point, the Middle Ages are far enough in the past that whatever sweeping generalizations we make about them might not immediately be refuted. If you say, for example, that everyone loved to joust back then, your group of friends probably won't erupt into a lively debate about the actual prevalence of jousting during the era (unless, of course, your friends are medieval scholars).

However, as is the case with most sweeping generalizations, ours regarding the so-called Dark Ages aren’t necessarily true. In this episode of Misconceptions, Mental Floss host Justin Dodd is investigating some of the most misguided ideas we have about life from the 5th century right up until Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in the early days of the Renaissance. (When Columbus did set sail, by the way, not everybody still believed the Earth was flat.)

By the end of the video, you’ll no longer believe that medieval people feasted always, bathed never, and generally lacked an appreciation for truth and beauty. And the next time your friend mentions anything about jousting, you can spearhead a lively debate on the subject.

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