REM SLEEP by: S. Kimberlin, M. Mazon, D. Showlund, S. Feanny, and A. Afeltenberger

REM Sleep vs. Non REM Sleep

REM sleep or Non-REM sleep, which is better? There are several ways to determine which sleep period is more desirable. We can look at the physical, the psychological and the biological pros and cons of each sleep period.

We can look at the amount of sleep each period requires and the quality of sleep each period provides and individual. We can even examine all the theories and researches that has been gathered about REM and Non-Rem sleep and make an educated guess on which is better. Instead I have chosen an unconventional way to illustrate each sleep period to include all these factors and may the best sleep period win!

Introducing REM Sleep, this phase of sleep was nicknamed in 1952 by Aserinsky & Kleitman when they noticed rapid-eye-movement sleep in a small child who was dreaming (Lahey,1998, p 143). When REM was discovered a new era of scientific study began in the exploration of this form of consciousness that occurs during the sleep process. In 1960, Wilse Webb referred to REM's physical characteristics as an “Autonomic Storm.” Webb called it this because of the increased activity in the autonomic nervous system during dreaming ( Lahey, 1998,p 143). When REM kicks in the body kicks with it . The blood flow to the brain increases, breathing and heartbeats become irregular, the hands and face start to twitch and voluntary muscle controls are lost. In essence, the body becomes paralyzed and is at the mercy of the autonomic and peripheral systems. This is the most active state of the sleep process. That’s why sometimes when we wake up, we feel like we have just ran a marathon. In Rem, dreams are like action movies . Rem dreams are vivid, filled with physical and emotional energy. They can be brief and long. In the article, The Third Level found on the Simmons Company web site it is stated “Rem is the third level of sleep that allows us to relive life experiences.” Perhaps that is why dreams that take place in REM are often remembered after waking , especially the nightmares that occur in this stage of sleep. REM only tales up two hours of our sleep a night. The two hours are necessary to avoid fatigue, irritability, and the inability to function in daily tasks. REM has also been touted for its restorative and protective qualities (Hobson,1989; Lahey,1998, p147; Tone(1999)Sleep and Dreaming, Retrieved March18,1999 from the World Wide Web: The sleep researchers still do not agree on the purpose of sleep and dreaming.

Introducing Non-REM sleep, called this because of its lack of rapid -eye –movement. NRS has a limited history but is not a newcomer to the show. NS sleep occurs 4-6 hours each night. It is the deepest sleep that occurs between REM sleep periods. The same effects that occur with REM sleep deprivation have been observed with NR sleep deprivation (Hobson,1989;Webb &Bonnet,1979;Lahey,1998, p148) . REM Sleep is often called the “Dream State.” However, more dreams actually occur in NRS. Non-REM sleep periods are short, faint impressions that contain no emotions and are rarely remembered. “Non REM dreams resemble the ordinary process of thinking” (Lahey,1998, p144). Night terrors, sleepwalking and talking occur in Non-Rem sleep (Lahey,1998, p148). Considering all the above information, how do we determine which sleep period is better?

With all the technology available to us today through the web, sleep labs, volunteer research studies and the availability to buy personal sleep monitoring devices. Even novices can explore the interesting world of REM and Non-REM sleep. I personally, these days would prefer the deep sleep that Non-Rem sleep provides, but I can appreciate the value of REM sleep to get a chance to relive some of my experiences and to remain at peak optimum performance.

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Nightmares and Other Sleep Phenomena

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of sleeping is the category known as nightmares. Nightmares occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and are generally shorter than most dreams, partly because the content of nightmares is terrifying often causing the dreamer to awaken. Although nightmares are frightening, an argument can be made that they are sometimes beneficial. We will examine this argument and also why nightmares are more frequently remembered than most normal dreams.

As all dreams, nightmares come from a hidden subconscious source that generally contains some piece of relevant information concerning the conscious. However; when dreams contain frightening subconscious content, the dreamer is likely to associate that content with negativity. For example, a person who has smoked cigarettes for many years has a nightmare about having lung cancer, in this case, although the actual process of dreaming was negative, the end result may be positive if the dreamer is frightened into quitting smoking.

Contrary to popular belief, not all nightmares can be remembered. If the problem causing the nightmare cannot be overcome by the conscious, the nightmare will not be remembered. We remember nightmares because they are, in effect, a "magic mirror" that, instead of giving the dreamer a reflection of it's outward appearance, it gives a visual image of our subconscious worries and phobias.(Jeremy Taylor) It is for this reason that nightmares that are remembered should not be forgotten.

In summarizing, nightmares are not the meaningless, middle-of-the-night scares that most people assume. They are, in fact, a dream that allows us to better understand ourselves, and if used correctly, a beneficial tool for overcoming our conscious nightmares.


Why Do We Dream?

There have been many so many questions regarding the subject of why we dream. Of course, the question of why we dream is also connected to why we sleep, because of the functions of the brain.

No one really knows exactly why we dream but even as of this date the reason is unknown. Although the reason has not been discovered, studies have shown that all humans dream. Researchers Aserinsky and Kleitmans say that we dream during REM sleep. The definition of REM sleep is called rapid eye movement. It is defined as such since there is rapid eye movement as you dream. Experiments completed have proven that over 80% of the individuals who participated were dreaming when they were awakened during rapid eye movements.

One article indicated that we probably all dreams but might not remember it . Within an eight-hour time frame of sleep, the results of the studies completed by researches determined that we are in REM for approximately two hours during our sleep .

It also would appear that dreaming, or the lack thereof, seems to affect how we are able to function on a daily basis. Two researchers by the name of Webb and Bonnet completed a sleep experiment. They used individuals to participate by dramatically changing their sleeping habits and only allowing them two hours of sleep a night. It was obvious the lack of sleep, with or without REM, along with such an abrupt change greatly affected how we function as humans. They level of efficiency was impaired and they were not very pleasant.

Researches have not been able to agree on the reason for the need to dream yet there have been some ideas. Some researchers believe that dreams help to maintain the functionality of brain during sleep. The stimulation of noise and even television is absent during sleep; it is therefore believed that dreams produce this stimulation which is missing. Though this does not appear to be a fact that has been proven at the moment, just the negative impact of the reduction of sleep and dreaming as mentioned above.

There are a few specific theories that have been proposed by some Sleep Researchers. J. Allan Hobson believes that sleep plays a restorative role. Wilse Webb however believes that sleep provides a protective role rather than a restorative role.

Though these researchers may differ, experiments have shown that as long as individuals achieve two hours of REM sleep during their rest hours, we as humans appear to be able to function on short periods of sleep.

Just keep in mind, that dreaming is very important even though we don’t really know why at this time.


The Meaning Of Dreams

Researchers have identified two types of sleep: rapid-eye-movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye movement (NREM) sleep. Sleep is first entered through NREM stages, during which dreams may occur. These dreams are usually brief, and can occasionally be recalled but lack the vivid visual imagery and are more like daydreaming. Unlike NREM sleep, dreams that occurs during REM sleep is said to be quite vivid and are more “like watching a play.” In many cases, the person may not be able to recall a dream when they are awakened while in others; the person can give a detailed account of the dream experience. In the early 1960s scientists believed that the period of sleep most associated with dreams was the rapid-eye-movement (REM) period. Today, after years of researching REM sleep and dreams, scientists now believe that the two are in fact not associated. Research now show that dreams come from the part of the brain that releases dopamine neurons.

There are many theories on the meaning of dreams. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, stated that the interpretation of dreams was the understanding of the human mind as a whole. Freud believed that dreams were inspired by a hidden wish, he even suggested that while we are awake and dreaming (daydreaming) this is an indication of our wish fulfillment. Jung who disagreed with Freud’s theory offered us a theory of his own. He believed that dreams carry a meaning although not always of desire. Many of Freud’s theories still stand true today, but many researchers have formed theories of their own one of which suggest that dreams are just a refection of our daily events and concerns.

According to Freud the content of dreams has two level: The manifest content which can usually be recalled by the dreamer and the latent content. It is the latent content, which include thoughts of a sexual nature and recognition of these thoughts can be unacceptable to the mind, so in dreams this unconscious material cannot be directly expressed. This may explain why our dreams often seem to have no connection with our current life, when in fact they do.
The true meaning of dreams still remains a mystery, but through modern technology like computers and sleep laboratories, researchers have a greater advantage of discovering new dream phenomena.

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