Pleasant Dreams!

Dr. Steve Mason

“We make some of our greatest gains when we see old things in new ways.”

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Plesant Dreams!

by Steve Mason

You frequently hear about people leading busy and sometimes even positively frantic lives. If only there were more hours in the day. Yet we spend a full third of our hours doing absolutely nothing. We unconsciously sleep away 8 out of every 24 hours and nobody knows why exactly. Since time is such a precious commodity and since a big chunk is spent dead to the world, it’s surprising that sleep isn’t being investigated along with those other notorious thieves of time – cancer and heart disease. What could you do with a third more life?

Of course, there has been research into sleep but from what’s been learned so far it doesn’t appear we’re going to eliminate or even reduce the need for sleep anytime soon. People can survive without food for a few weeks and without water for a few days but stay awake just a few hours beyond your normal bedtime and the need for sleep becomes apparent.

And it’s not just that you need to rest. Sitting in an airline seat as you fly through half a dozen time zones is pretty restful yet the jet lag that results from tinkering with your internal clock will leave you mentally confused and physically worn-out. Experts say it takes one full day to make up for each hour of disruption. Just check the statistics to see how many people get sick and/or have accidents after the national time changes in Spring and Fall.

Not all creatures need a full 8 hours of sleep. Mostly it’s those high on the food chain that get to enjoy an extended snooze. Cats, for example, can sleep on and off for 16 hours while prey animals such as deer have to get along on micro-sleeps of just a few moments at a time.

So why do we sleep? One reason has to do with memory. It seems that when we’re sleeping our brains are working at reviewing and either filing or discarding the events of the day. One might say it’s a time for getting caught up. It’s a time for decided what will and what won’t go into long term memory.

Dreams are like sleep in that they are essential but no one knows why. Interrupt someone’s REM or dream sleep one night and they will dream twice as much the following night. Interrupt another night and they will start to have psychotic episodes that are sometimes described as dreaming out loud. Interestingly enough, subjects put into sensory deprivation chambers, where all stimuli are reduced to a minimum, will start to have the same experience.

Look At It This Way

The dreams you had last night would be enough to have you hospitalized if you believed they were real and you behaved as though they were. So what may one make of the connection between a normal dream and an abnormal mind? Dream analysis is no longer considered legitimate therapy but nighttime fantasies are so close to daytime madness that the study of one may ultimately lead to a far better understanding of the other.


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