Sleep and Dreams

Article contains  :My Thoughts , National Sleep Foundation Says , Self Help Link.

My Thoughts 

It’s believed that everyone dreams, stories played out whilst we sleep can be a jumbled reflection of our lives.I see dreams like this :Whilst we are awake we are mostly  able to control our thoughts. We move through our awake time absorbing information , some of which the mind processes , some of which we work with in the moment and some that the mind subtly stores eg  As we drive down a street alongside  consciously considering our driving and road awareness ,our sub concious mind may be absorbing all manner of other activities. The clothes someone passing has on, the person coming out of a door, or the man up a ladder , all of these other activities playing out to us, but  not in our  immediate interest . I think of  our mind  as a huge filing cabinet. During our waking hours we can open and close the filing cabinet at will and everything is accessible to our own order. Whilst we sleep the control we are able to exercise over our thoughts during our waking time is somewhat relinquished and the filing cabinet opens and closes and releases files that are stored but may not connect. We produce stories that are jumbled,  these trigger  varying degrees of emotions.In sleep we are not processing the stored information in any controlled way. It comes to mind and leaves in its wake, confused, cobbled experiences.Some times we wake as a result of the experience and in the confusion may believe that the dream is reality, it can take a while to settle down and work through before we accept that it was a dream.When we are experiencing, stress, anxiety,  emotional or mental pressure, it  is likely that the feelings will emerge when we are less guarded and can often be miss paired with events in our memory recall so creating these jumbled stories.In my experience after a bereavement it is usual to have sleep disturbance,inability to sleep and emotional sleep experiences.The variation of sleep experiences that my clients have shared are vast.  Common dreams are those about the past or about the loved one not really having died . Dreams of searching are also common..One lady told me , she dreamt of being in crowds ,she would see her loved one  briefly , call out to him and try to follow him ,then be unable to find him.Waking with anxiety and panic , the realisation of the reality of her loss. In short it seems to me that  dreams are a manifestation of the feelings and thoughts held back whilst concious but released by the sub concious whilst we sleep.

Alex James


The following article taken from the National Sleep Foundation

The National sleep Foundation Says

In ancient societies, dreams guided political, social and everyday decisions. Early books, including the Bible, are filled with references to divine visions during sleep. On the other hand, Greek philosophers attributed dream content to natural sources, which were precursors of modern theories of dream formation and significance.

In the 19th century, Sigmund Freud promoted one popular theory that dreams gave us access to our unconscious repressed conflicts. He called them “the royal road to a knowledge on the part of the unconscious plays in mental life.” However, another early psychoanalyst, Alfred Adler, believed that dreams reflect current lifestyle and offer solutions to contemporary problems.

Interest in modern dream research was revived at the same time as the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and its association with an increased frequency in dreaming by Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman in 1953. “When we look at the importance of dream research we get back to the question ‘Does sleep itself have a function?’ We know today, if you sleep you have an improved waking experience. We also know that sleep allows dreaming to occur,” according to Jim Pagel, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Southern Colorado and a participating NSF Community Sleep Awareness Partner®. “If dreaming has an actual function, it really supports why we spend a third of our lives sleeping.”

While scientists still do not know much about why or how we dream, some have suggested that we typically spend more than two hours dreaming each night. Many people experience their most vivid dreams during REM sleep; less vivid dreams occur at other times of the night. Comparative research has shown that while most mammals and birds show signs of REM sleep, reptiles and other cold-blooded animals scientists still don’t know—and probably never will—if animals dream during REM sleep, as humans do. “How can you prove that another person has dreams?” says Jerome Siegel, PhD, a professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA Center for Sleep Research. “You ask them.”

Reports of Dreams

It began with a swim in the ocean. Suddenly Jessica realized that she had gone much farther away from shore than she expected and, to her great dismay, there was a pair of killer whales swimming toward her. The whales circled around her several times while she did her best not to panic. After several minutes of playful dives and underwater acrobatics, the whales swam away just as suddenly as they had appeared. What happened next was terrifying. The ocean swelled up, curled over, and slammed Jessica back onto the beach.

That’s when she woke up. This dream report is just one of the myriad bizarre scenarios that people perceive to happen to them while they sleep. Some people describe specific elements in their dreams that they can trace directly to things they have recently seen, heard or experienced, as though their minds are attempting to organize bits and pieces of information gathered during waking hours. Dreamers note repeated themes; the dreamer in this case is a woman who has recurring dreams that take place in or near the ocean. She has been recording these dreams for years in a dream diary, hoping to some day sort out the meaning of such fantastic imaginings that occupy her mind while she sleeps.

History of Dream Research

Since the earliest of recorded histories, people have theorized about the function and meaning of dreams. Answers came largely from the spirit world until Aristotle and Plato developed the drive related hypothesis that was later expanded on by the European psychoanalysts of the 19th and 20th centuries. This hypothesis defines dreaming as a way to act out unconscious desires in a safe or “unreal” setting, presumably because to do so in reality would be unacceptable or even detrimental. But even in the 21st century we still are not sure why we dream. The only way to study dreams is to ask the dreamer. However, one thing we know for sure is that dreaming is something that the vast majority of humans do every night of their lives.

In 1953 Eugene Aserinsky, a graduate student in physiology, and Nathaniel Kleitman, PhD, chair of physiology at the University of Chicago, discovered the phenomenon of rapid eye movement (REM) during a series of sleep studies. Study participants who were awakened during REM sleep invariably recalled bizarre and vivid dreams. If awakened while eyes were motionless (non-REM sleep), participants rarely recalled dreaming. Before the REM discovery, most scientists believed that the brain was essentially inactive during sleep. The Chicago researchers proved that the brain is indeed active during sleep, a finding that helped establish the sleep science discipline, which has led to the diagnosis and treatment of 84 known or suspected sleep disorders.

A few years after the REM discovery, Michel Jouvet, MD, of Claude Bernard University in Lyon, France, recognized that brain activity during REM sleep resembles that of wakefulness. He called REM “paradoxical sleep” because of the fact that such cognitive activity is accompanied by muscular paralysis. He referred to non-REM sleep, a time of reduced brain activation, as “quiet sleep,” in which there is no muscular inhibition.

In a pioneering study conducted by William C. Dement, MD, PhD, in 1960, the psychological effects of REM deprivation were discovered by waking subjects just as they began dreaming. Dr. Dement observed increased tension, anxiety and irritability among his subjects along with difficulty concentrating, an increase in appetite with consequent weight gain, lack of motor coordination, feelings of emptiness and depersonalization and hallucinatory tendencies. The results of this study clearly indicate that dreaming has profound importance and that dream deprivation can have very serious consequences.

Why Do We Dream?

But even with these discoveries, the question of why we dream remains unanswered. Some researchers think dreaming might have evolved for physiological reasons. There is a great deal of neuronal activity occurring while we sleep, especially in REM, and it has been suggested that dreams may just be a meaningless by-product of this biological function. Another theory of dreaming is put forth by Rosalind Cartwright, PhD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Dr. Cartwright believes that dreams are the mechanism whereby the brain incorporates memories, solves problems and deals with emotions. In this way, she maintains, dreams are essential for our emotional health.

In spite of our attempts to demystify the phenomenon of dreaming, human beings simply have not yet come close to answering the question “Why do we dream?” According to Jim Pagel, MD, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Southern Colorado, “If dreaming has an actual function, it really supports why we spend a third of our lives sleeping.” For now, we will have to be content with simply enjoying the show our brain puts on for us each evening

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