6. Dreams And Their Role In Sleep
Why do we dream? What physiological purposes are served by dreams?
Many students of the subject have ventured explanations. Sigmund Freud has, in the last century, described dreams as "the. guardians of sleep." This author favors that view.
6.1 Dreams As Guardians of Sleep
The dream stage is called REM sleep. This denotes a period of time during which there are rapid eye movements. These periods always occur after a period of deeper sleep. They last from a few brief moments up to half an hour. Dreams usually occur in 90-minute cycles throughout the night. However, some cycles are devoid of dreams, especially at the beginning of the night if the sleeper is very exhausted. Later, 90-minute cycles usually have the REM stage or a stage of dreaming.
Cited in the book Better Sleep for a Better Life are cases of only delta wave sleep on a fluidized air bed. Dreams did not occur and sleeping time was cut in half. This is very instructive in view of the many theories afloat about the purposes of sleep and the necessity of REM sleep or dreaming to insure our well-being.
Dreams are said to be necessary for "sorting out and classifying" the previous day's impressions or data input. They are said to be analogous to the rezeroing of an analog computer in preparation for new problems and input.
Study and reflection upon the whyfore of dreams have led me to believe that they serve a valid physiological role. We note that, under ordinary sleeping conditions, the body has a 90-minute sleeping cycle. However, this cycle is nonexistent when sleep is most efficiently conducted, and extraordinarily tired people may fuse the cycles at the beginning of the night. This would seem to indicate the nonnecessity of dreams where sleep conditions favor the objectives of sleep. Dreams seem to be a tool the body uses when sleep is still needed but is threatened.
For example, when we have a full bladder during the night, we may, prior to wakening, have a dream during which, vicariously, we urinate. The dream has supplied ersatz satisfaction to the urge and thus preserved sleep. However, this may only delay the inevitable. But the purpose o prolonging sleep has been served. Dreams of eating, drinking, defecating and discharging other body urges are commonplace. Especially common are dreams of sexual fulfillment.
It is reasonable to conjecture that parts of the brain that are aroused by stimuli are quieted by vicarious fulfillment through dreaming.
6.2 Dreams as Tranquilizers of the Mind
In guarding against premature wakefulness, dreams also often tranquilize or becalm the mind. Consider the following, example: Dave had been trying to solve a problem during the day, and he was rather intense and involved with it. His brain had become very involved with the problem, and the impulses to solve it arose again and again, even during his sleep. When these impulses become strong enough to interfere with sleep, his mind "artificially" supplied an answer to allay the impulses and thus preserve sleep.
I have solved problems during sleep too often to recount. However, most of the solutions have proven impractical! It is the rare dream that supplies an answer that is applicable to the problem that besets us. Nevertheless, even a wrong solution is sometimes helpful in giving insights and setting the stage for a solution.
To conduct the processes of sleep for most efficient regeneration of nerve energy, dreams appear to be mechanisms the body uses for calming the mind when problems and other stimuli would otherwise disturb sleep.
Home > Lesson 15 - The Roles Of Rest And Sleep In Supplying Body Needs
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