Dream and Dreaming RZ Discussion 3

Dream and Dreaming RZ Discussion 3

Dream and Dreaming RZ Discussion 3

A Summary of the Sleep Cycle as You Understood It

          The sleep cycle is divided into Non-REM and REM sleep. Researchers have used physiological correlates and electroencephalogram (EEG) measures to divide Non-REM sleep into four stages. Dreams usually occur in REM sleep, which is characterized by rapid eye movement (Rosenthal 204; Rock viii). However, dreams can occur at any stage during the sleep cycle. EEG measurements quantify “small changes in voltage between electrodes placed on the scalp(Rosenthal 204). They measure the postsynaptic activity of a cluster of neurons rather than single neurons. Researchers measure the amplitude and duration (frequency) of the waves recorded by the EEG machine, consequently categorizing them into desynchronized and synchronized waves. Synchronized waves represent a collective activation of a cluster of neurons and are apparent during Non-REM sleep. Desynchronized waves are apparent during REM sleep and wakefulness when the brain is highly active. Their wave characteristics include high frequency and low amplitude. Presumably, the similarities of the waves during REM sleep and wakefulness suggest that dreaming is similar to waking life. EOG (electrooculogram) and EMG (electromyogram) measurements provide physiological indicators of different sleep cycles, such as eye movements and muscle activity, respectively. Using the aforementioned methods, researchers have divided the sleep cycle into 90-minute cycles, which are repeated about three to six times during the night. Initially, Non-REM sleep takes 80 minutes and REM sleep takes 10 minutes. The amount of REM sleep increases during the night as stages three and four of Non-REM sleep decrease. Rosenthal states that the increase in REM sleep during the 90-minute cycle explains why most dreams occur during the morning (204). Researchers have not fully understood the sleep cycle, but they have made extensive leaps in understanding the relationship between dreaming and wakefulness.   

A comment or question about the sleep cycle

           The sleep cycle is fascinating because it suggests that there is a thin line between wakefulness and dreaming. The similarities in brain activity as measured by the low amplitude and high frequency of the brain waves during the two mental states suggest that they are highly similar consciousness states. Rock has anecdotally noted the similarities because she narrates how she has an extreme physiological reaction when she dreams that her children have fallen out of a window or from a cliff. She wakes up with her heart racing as if she had experienced a real event. She cites other researchers, including Richard Feynman, who have had similar experiences (Rock vii). Rock classifies dream scientists into two, the first being those who think dreams are “hallucinatory narratives complete with characters and a discernable plotline that occurs primarily during that period of rest known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep” (viii). The other group views dreams broadly, opining that any mental activity that occurs during any stage of the sleep cycle as dreaming. They even include meditative states during wakefulness as dreaming (Rock viii). The second group could be correct because of phenomena, such as sleepwalking in which an individual behaves like an automaton while in a dream state. The phenomenon is so pervasive that two people have committed murders while in a noninsane automaton state (Cartwright 1149). Additional evidence shows that dreams can help people deal with traumatic events by using connections and contextualizing metaphors to link the negative experiences in waking life to positive memories similar to the way daydreaming can induce positive feelings (Rock 117). Therefore, dreams and wakefulness have an intricate relationship and serve similar functions to influence consciousness and perceptions.

Something about My Cautions Concerning the Terms “Western” And “Non-Western

           The terms western and non-western can significantly reduce objectivity when understanding dreams in multiple cultures. The western mindset is highly rigid and relies on a supposedly rational inquiry into dream states. However, studies suggest that the western view of sleep patterns does not align with natural sleep cycles at different stages of human development. Bower reports that studies suggest a pushing back if the biological clock during adolescence, leading to teenagers sleeping later and waking up later compared to other ages. The researcher reports that modern western societies view this as rebellion, but traditional societies variable sleep patterns are important because it means that different people can look out for danger as others sleep (Bower 206). Similarly, while western societies are still grappling on whether sleep and wakefulness are similar states, eastern traditional societies, such as Tibetan Buddhists, have already solved the question. Rock reports that a blend of Western and Eastern philosophy led to an experiment in which participants tried to maintain self-reflective awareness even while sleeping for 24 hours. The participants experienced lucid dreams that they could not easily distinguish from reality (Rock 151). While lucid dreaming had a long history, Western scientists did not think that the phenomenon was real, probably because it is counterintuitive (Rock 152). This situation could be caused by the Western high-minded distinction between traditional irrational beliefs, such as Eastern philosophies and scientific rationalism. There should be no distinction between the two because they can both produce objectively verifiable results, such as lucid dreaming.     

A question about the reading to clarify something you do not understand

           The major question brought out in the readings is whether someone who commits a crime while sleepwalking is guilty. The question presents significant problems in understanding consciousness while dreaming because if the person is guilty, then the delineation between dreaming and wakefulness is extremely narrow. Consequently, human beings should take dreams seriously rather than consider them as fictional narratives with little or no relationship in waking life. Cartwright reports two cases of homicide during sleepwalking in Canada and the U.S. In the former, the courts returned a not guilty verdict while in the latter the courts found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder despite being in a noninsane automaton state (Cartwright 1149). The different verdicts in the two cases suggest that there are major contentions on what wakefulness and dreaming are in human consciousness. 

Something That Relates to Your Own Sleep Experience

           My sleep experience is relatively uneventful. I have nightmares when I am experiencing significant stress or anxiety. The nightmares appear to mirror my waking consciousness. So far, I have not established a relationship between dreams and my psychological well-being. I think I should try consciousness-altering practices, such as meditation. I would like to experience lucid dreaming because it could help reveal salient aspects of my waking experiences. I learned the importance of sleep when I stayed awake for about four days. I experienced auditory hallucinations that unnerved me. Sleep is highly important in maintaining a coherent view of reality. The readings have made me realize that dreams have a similar function.

Works Cited

Bower, Bruce. “Slumber’s Unexplored Landscape: People in Traditional Societies Sleep in

Eye‐Opening Ways.” Science News, vol. 156, no. 13 (1999), pp. 205-207.

Cartwright, Rosalind. “Sleepwalking Violence: A Sleep Disorder, A Legal Dilemma, and a

Psychological Challenge.” American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 161, no. 7 (2004), pp.        1149-1158.

Rock, Andrea. The Mind at Night: The New Science of How And Why We Dream. Basic Books

(AZ), 2004.

Rosenthal, Martha S. “Physiology and Neurochemistry of Sleep.” American Journal of

Pharmaceutical Education, vol. 62 (1998), pp. 204-207.


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