The Architecture of Sleep and the Function of Dreams
Also, while sleeping there are cycles and changes along its course. These cycles are related to changes in brain electrical activity and we don’t dream in all of them. We cycle through five sleep stages in about 90 minutes (Rosenzweig, 1992). These cycles are repeated 4-5 times throughout the night. The five sleep stages are: ?Stage 1. Numbness, transition state between sleep and wakefulness. This period can produce micro-sleeps and hallucinations. The electroencephalogram shows brain activity slower than in the waking state. ?Stage 2. Light Sleep (in which we spend the most time) follows about 20 minutes later.
Lowers the heart rate and breathing. During this stage the brain calm periods alternate with other activities. ?Stage 3. Transitional stage to deep sleep, takes a few minutes. ?Stage 4. Delta wave sleep. It’s a slow sleep in which both, the breathing rate and brain waves, are slow. It’s very hard to wake up in this stage, dreams do not usually occur. Then we go back to stage 2, is at this moment when we enter a new physiological state called REM sleep, and what characterizes this stage are rapid eye movements; REM sleep is a recurring sleep stage during which vivid dreams commonly occur.
Also know as paradoxical sleep, because the muscles are relaxed (except for minor twitches) but other body systems are active (Myers, 2010). While we sleep, deep sleep cycles, where the body rests and repairs itself, are alternated with sleep and dream, or REM (rapid eye movement) where the body is paralyzed, which is primarily a function of repair and management of emotional content. The REM stage lasts approximately 20 minutes each, that is, we come to dream for about 100 minutes spread over the night.
The dreams that we remember when we wake up while we are in a REM stage are typically longer, sharper (almost taking the form of hallucinations), more animated, change scenes fast, and they are more rare and quirky, more emotionally charged, and less related to our normal life than the ones in non-REM stages. On the contrary, the ones from non-REM stages contain more representations of our daily concerns and they are more of a thinking and less like images (Hobson, 2000). Hobson also mentions the following characteristics of REM dreams, which occur in them often and rarely in non-REM dreams: 1.
Contain hallucinatory perceptions. 2. The images change rapidly and are rare and bizarre, but also relate to our everyday lives. 3. They are so vivid that sometimes make us wonder whether we are asleep or awake. 4. Rational reflection in dreams is absent or greatly reduced, although it is now thought that the reflection, self-control and other meta-cognitive ways are more common than we previously thought. 5. Dreams are lack of stability in orientation, therefore, places, times and people are mixed together. 6. Dreams create stories to integrate all elements of the dream in a more logical narrative. . The dreams increase and intensify the emotions, especially fear and anxiety that seem integrated into the rare features of sleep and can even make a narrative of the dream. 8. Dreams show a increased incorporation of instinctual programs, especially those related to fight or run which may also act as organizers of dream cognition. 9. Voluntary control is highly attenuated. The dreamer rarely considers the possibility of actually control the flow of events of the dream and on the few occasions when this happens, the dreamer can only gain in clarity and for only a few seconds.
However, other more common forms of control may be more common in sleep. 10. One reason for the description of REM dreams to be longer is that they have to explain the bizarre images that compose it. Dreams have little relation to what we think or do before bed, so we cannot think of dreaming to solve problems. Sigmund Freud and his school of thought, Psychoanalysis, have distinguished between two types of content of dreams, the manifest content (apparent) and the latent content (what really is), and this is where the analyst comes in, to interpret it. “Freud considered dreams the key to understanding our inner conflicts. (Myers, 2010) We haven’t been able to exactly explain why we dream but there are many theories for this. There are five major views of the function of dreams. ?Freudian: to provide a safety valve, with manifest content (or story line) acting as a censored version of latent content (some underlying meaning that gratifies our unconscious wishes). ?The information-processing perspective: to sort out the day’s experiences and fix them in memory. ?Brain stimulation: to preserve neural pathways in the brain. ?The activation-synthesis explanation: Dreams are the result of random neural activity in our brain. The cognitive development perspective: Dreams represent the dreamer’s brain maturation and level of development, knowledge, and understanding. Most sleep theorists agree that REM sleep and its associated dreams serve an important function, as shown by the REM rebound that occurs following REM. (Myers, 2010) Finally, and beyond these Freudian questions of interpretation or the ones that gave a predictive value to dreams in ancient history, dreaming turns out to be a state required and recommended for both health and the good performance of daily activities.
Sleep, rest, turns out to be essential to improve the quality of life of human beings, and to remain non-stop for several hours is harmful, for example, for the attention we can pay to things; obviously, it will be much lower if we are restless. Ideally, human beings should sleep eight hours a day to recharge batteries so we can start a day with activities. References: Myers, D. G. (2010). Psychology 9th edition in Modules Worth Publishers.