Sleep And Dreams Research Paper

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Biology 202, Spring 2005
Second Web Papers
On Serendip

sleep and dreams, important?

Ayumi Hosoda

Sleeping is an essential activity to everyone. Lack of sleep is something many of us go through and we experience the consequences when we go against our will with sleep: extreme sleepiness and tiredness during day. Sleeping is an inevitable everyday activity, but what is so important about this? The most common thing we all experience during sleep is to dream. Dreaming is a very interesting occurrence, because we often cannot recall what we see in our dreams or we are mystified by the random contents in dreams. What is dreaming? Do they symbolize something? This paper is going to explore the function and importance of sleep and dreams as well as their relations to each other.

Sleep is a repeated cycle of a five stage process. The first four stages are called Non REM (Non Rapid eye movement sleep) when brains are typically in a resting stage. Through stage 1 to stage 4, we get into a deeper sleep. Brain activity is generally very low throughout Non REM sleep. Non REM sleep cycle composes about 80 % of our sleep and usually lasts about 90 minutes. After the first four stages, we go through the fifth stage called REM sleep (Rapid eye movement), when many parts of our bodies are the most active. This was discovered by Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman in University of Chicago in 1953. Some of the physical changes in REM sleep are the increase in heart rate, breathing, blood pressures and brain activity as well as a body paralysis. REM sleep is usually considered a stage people dream (1).

There are two theories on sleep function; the conservation theory and the restoration theory. The conservation theory proposes that we basically need to sleep in order to preserve our energy for our daytime use. When our use of energy amount is considered in terms of the rate of metabolism, slow wave sleep especially the first four stages spends merely 5 to 25 % of the amount we use during day, and slow wave sleep is strongly "associated with conservation of energy" (2). Another theory, the restoration theory, holds two hypotheses, the whole body restoration and the neurological restoration. The whole body restoration hypothesis suggests that sleep functions as a process of "anabolism" with respect to protein as well as a release of more hormones(2). The neurological restoration hypothesizes that brain is the one that needs to sleep. In addition, each stage is responsible for the partial brain restoration and that is why people need to repeat several Non REM and REM sleep cycles throughout the night (2). Some researchers even hypothesize that these two theories might be both correct, and the sleep function is still a myth.

Why do we sleep in the first place? What triggers to fall asleep is not a single source. For example, it has been said that the hypothalamus, located in the center of the brain, collects messages from certain cells and carry the signal to the pineal gland in the brain. This process causes to produce the "hormone melatonin" which helps the body temperature to go down. Also, another example is raphe nuclei, located in the part of the brain which is in charge of "unconscious activity" such as walking and eating, sends an order to nerve impulses to shut down the brain system. Therefore, falling asleep is not merely a single process but a collective event (3).

As it is stated earlier, REM sleep and dreams have a strong connection, because many dreams take place during the REM cycle. Because of the development of technology, many researches can be done by using fMRI and PET these days. reports that limbic system, strongly associated with emotions, is the most active area of the brain during REM sleep whereas prefrontal cortex which is responsible of logical thinking is the least active area )(4). This is the reason why dreams sometimes lack clarity in contents and seem very random.

Many researchers have been trying to find out the functions and symbols of dreams. Though there are many theories, researchers have not exactly found out the reasons we dream and whether the contents of dreams have directly something to do with our everyday life. The first theory came up by a psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Freud explained that what is in our dream is the "repressed longing": the suppressed thoughts and desires that we are usually unable to express socially (1). Carl Jung also supports Freudian ideas especially the origin of dreams, but except for one important principle. What Jung sees different is that dreams enable us to see ourselves as well as solve our problems (1). The third theory, "activation-synthesis hypothesis", proposed by Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley in 1970's takes a very different view compared to Freud and Jung. They claim that dream consists of random images which are stored as a memory in our head. These random images, dreams, are created by "nerve signals sent out during REM sleep from a small area called the pons" (4).Though there are many theories to solve the representation of dreams, the recently study in 1997 by Mark Solms using fMRI and PET seem to lean toward Freudian theory. Solms studied people with a brain damage, and concluded that the most active place during sleep was the part which controls emotion regardless of the differences in brain damages (4) . Though many researchers including Solm do not necessarily see Freudian ideas as completely valid, they do believe that unconscious thoughts may be projected on our dreams (4) .

REM sleep and dreams are related, but what is important about them? In the study by William Dement at Stanford University School of Medicine, participants were awaken when they were about to go to REM sleep stage, and Dement concluded that many participants had a psychological problem such as anxiety and irritability (1). According to this theory, REM seems like an essential sleep stage for humans. Jerry Siegel, director of UCLA's center for sleep research explains that "REM sleep may have evolved for physiological reasons" considering that Non REM and REM behave like the automatic temperature change which a lot of animals do. Siegel also see dreams as a kind of "epiphenomenon" of a sleep product (4). The importance and function of sleep and dreams are controversial ; some researchers claim that sleep and dreams are essential for health whereas some claim that they were a necessary development for human.

Although there has been many researches and theories on sleep and dreams, we still have not found why we actually sleep and what exactly the importance of this activity. After all, sleeping can be accepted as a fact that we all have to do everyday in our life regardless of the puzzles in reasoning. Because of the technological advancement, our scientific discovery has been much more rapid. Someday, some research might be able to find out the definite answers for sleep and dreams, but until then, the myth of sleep and dreams remains with us.

Web Sources
1)how dreams work page , how stuff works website

5)tripod system , Bryn Mawr College Library website

3)what is insomnia page , yahoo health website

4)what dreams are made of page , on website

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Dreams and dreaming are an important part of our lives and cultures of
epopel around the world. They are a reliable source of insight, personal
enrichment, and life affirming revelations. Dreams are the language of a
person's subconscious mind.
Before a person starts to dream, there are certain cylces or stages that
a person goes through in their sleep. Sleeping is important in our lives.
The ancient Geeks beleived that sleep was a grant. Manny people spend about
25 years in sleeping and dreaming.
There are four 90 minute stages of sleep that a person go through in
their sleep. Ot begins with stage 1. This is when breathing is regular,
heart rate slows down, and blood pressure decreases. A perosn could still be
awake during this stage. They are still concious. Slowly the person drifts
to stage 2. During this stage, the person is still realzed and they do not
know what is going on in the outside surroundings. As the perosn falls
deeper into sleep, the person falls into stage 3 and 4. It is harder to wake
soemone up when they reached this stage.
It takes about an hour for a perosn to go through all four stages. Yet,
not everyone goes through all of these stages a nioght. Throughout the
night, stages four and fivere repeated.
REM (rapid eye movement) takes place when a person is at the deepest
level of sleep. In REM, eyes move quicly under the eyelid. Dreaming takes
place at this stage. Dreams occur more often and they are more real at this
stage. These dreams are story like, intense, and passionate.
There are amny ways to look at dreams. The psychoanalytic, biological,
and cognitive views of dreaming are the three wyas theories to look at
dreams. THese theories has not been tested for researchers to find enough
In psychoanalytic view, Freud came up with a theory called the
"wish-fulfilmetn theory." Wish-fulfilemtn throy is "Freud's theory of dream
interpretation that emphasizes the roles of maiffest and latent content of
dreams" (Huffman, Vernoy, and Vernoy, 139). In a psychoanalytic view, they
say that dreams are hidden signs of supresses needs. In a biological
perspective, they beleive that dreams are not importatn- they are stimultaion
of brain cells. In a cognitive view, they beleive dreams is an important
part of information proecssing.
There is no proven fact on why we dream. This is why there are a lot og
theories on dreaming. There is amnu dream theorists that wrote theories on
why epople dream. Fruend was always nchnated by dreams. He belived that all
dreams are meaningful. In Frued's theory, he wrote that dreams carry our
hidden desires. Jung, another perosn who wrtoe about therores on dreaming
wrtoe that dreams carry meaning and that these dreams can be interperted by
the dreamer.
There is many theories about dreams yet, Freud's theory stands out the
most. He beleived that a dream portrays an ongoping wish wioth the previous
days activites. People mioght also deram about wihses that they had as a
child. Freud also beleived that nothing ismade up in a dream. They are
biologically determined and obtained from perosn's needs and personal
The most iunteresting ideas among his theroy is his theory of dream
occurence. Dream will occur when the unconscious wish is bound to the
preconscious instead of just being removed. If there is too much going
through a person's ,ind-denial, regression, or repression, a dream will take
Jung disagreed wiht Freud's theory and developed his own theory that
contradicted Freud's. Jung beleived the most effective method for a dream
interpretaion wa sthe use of series correlation. Freud did not beleive that
the dreamer could interpret theor own dream. He beleived that only trained
psychologists could interpret dreams.
Jung also categorized the mind into three parts- the collective
unconsciou, the personal unconscious, and the conscious. The collective
unconscious does not depend on personal expereinces. The personal
unconscious hold forgoteen assocation, unnoticed expereinces, repressed and
discarded thoguths and half thoughts. The conscious develops through
sensing, thinking, and intution.
A dream can also be traslated yet it involves sevreal stages. The first
stage involes clear understanding of dream structuvre. In every dream, there
is a dreamer. The dreamer represents consciousness and the psyche. The
person represent their awareness and perspective of life.
The second stage involvoes understanding the influences producing dream
content. Dremas infleunces affecting the person's subliminally. These
inflerunces affecting the person's life and consciouness. A person's dream
is a product of subliminal infleince.
Understanding dream descritpion is the third stage of dream translation.
This stage is the most difficult to understand. Our social and cultural
diffreences affect dreams and how we perceive certain dream images when we
are awake. However, there are two rules of dream translation. The first
rule is that all dream images are representations. Words are not iused, the
subconscious mind has metaphoric images. The second rule is that all dream
images reflect seomthing mental. Dreams occur in mental domain. The objects
and epople in a person's dream are not physical images. They are mental
The final stage invovles the order of the process and teh context of
dream imagery. When a person is trying to remeber their dream they are
remembering series of images. All the images from the entire dream is needed
to traslate the meaning of the dream. Studying the whole dream is more
important to understand then studying only one image of a dream.
Review dreams is condtions and challenges of life and how we view
ourselves. These dreams show how we evolve through our life expereices.
Many people beleive that theoriues on dreaming is pointless. Some beleive
that dreams are meaningless to us and jsut another thing that is part of our
lives. Yet, there are otehr who say dreams are either the clearing of
fragments from our memory that was stored. However, there are other people
who do not beleive it and argue aainst it. These epople say the dreams are
important to live a full and complete life. It is difficult for us to study
dream and how it works while we are sleeping. People can only decide for
themselves and belive what they wa to believe in. Only the dreamer can
determine what is right or wrong. 

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