When’s the last time you dreamed? In fact, the last time sleep occurred is the correct answer. Most people believe that they don’t dream, only because these individuals can’t recall dreaming as an event. In J. Allan Hobson’s book, Dreaming, it explores how dreaming is influenced and how it affects the individual, how dreaming is associated with REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and the importance of it, and also why sleep is so essential for human beings and other mammals to experience. Sleep is correlated with dreaming, making dreaming a phenomenon essential to living.
Dreaming is an interesting subject, and may also seem interesting while happening; though many don’t remember the events within them. What is dreaming, someone might ask? Dreaming is basically the brain’s activation throughout the sleep cycle. This was not discovered from looking at the content of the dream, like many of us look forward to, such as the images and scenarios our mind creates; but rather a more formalistic approach on the study of dreams. By using more scientific methods to analyze and define the dreaming state, research has improved drastically over several years, however, it failed to become an actual science. “My consciousness is as clear as a bell. In fact, I see--and feel--everything in this dream with a surreal intensity...” (Hobson 25.) In this quote given by the author, he was describing how he had felt during the dream he shared within the text. People who are interested in the content of dreams should read this book, as Hobson gives away a few logs in his own dreaming journal. Hobson mentioned how he had felt as if imagining the dream were actually happening because it seemed so vividly clear. In fact, so clear it seemed like reality. His dream was about a red car smashing into a wall, and then finding himself with his son’s bloodied knees and all in a locker room. He associated this vision with his son previously being in a car accident, where indeed the car was red, and his son did infact have a damaged leg. Events that happened prior to the dream may affect the content within the sleeping hallucination. Night terrors or nightmares may also have this same effect on the dreamer. These kind of dreaming states can be associated with traumatic events in ones life. This may cause an effect on the individual to get caught up in this unpleasant scenario and result in awakening. Dreams may also be affected through external interference. In a sleep lab, using certain smells, scientists jump started the patients to experience a specific smell in the dreaming state. There are many factors that can affect the dreaming state an individual experiences.
The factors that affect the dreaming state of an individual are also internally significant. “Not that dreaming occurs exclusively in REM sleep. It doesn’t. REM sleep just happens to provide the most ideal condition for its occurrence.” (Hobson 38.) Through this quote provided by Hobson, he is saying that through Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, dreaming is most ideal and this is a common time for dreaming to occur. If someone wants to learn about this certain subject of dreaming, they should consider read the content of this book. Dreaming is important such as REM sleep is to daily function, because both are essentially linked to each other. REM sleep takes place at about 90 minute intervals throughout a sleep cycle, taking up to two hours per night. This kind of deep sleep is essential as it is necessary for development. It is known that at infancy an individual needs much more REM sleep rather than in adults. This makes sense because at this young of age is when the most development occurs. With this statement, it does not mean that as aging occurs that REM sleep isn’t necessary because throughout life development is an ongoing process. As early as at 30 weeks gestation does the fetus develop the ability of REM sleep. Although dreaming is associated mainly with this specific type of sleep, does not say whether fetuses, infants, or even animals dream as it can only be confirmed vocally by the individual. It is only assumed through body movements and facial expressions, such as when a baby frowns or a dog may run in their sleep for example, that dreaming is an occurring event. A study also found that in children, REM sleep happened right away in the sleep cycle of a child, but the same not true for adults. Although dreaming is commonly taken for the misconception that one does not dream entirely altogether, it is at the fault of no recall whatsoever. In sleep lab studies, when one is woken at the time that REM sleep happens to be occurring, it is more likely for the participant to remember their dream; linking mainly REM sleep to the state of dreaming, rather than NREM sleep or right before awakening.
Now that it is safe to say that dreaming is associated with REM sleep, can we confront the question of why it’s so important to be in that deep state of sleeping. As mentioned before, REM sleep is essential to development in an individual. “To read, to write, to listen, and to tell, I need a good night’s sleep. And, recognizing that fact, I try my best to get it.” (Hobson 79.) Even represented in this quote from Hobson does he express the importance of sleep. A lot of people don’t realize the beneficial aspects of a good nights rest, and people should read this book as to gain insight about it. REM sleep helps regulates thermoregulation, which is a necessity for the the body in order to survive. REM sleep also stores important memories and content, throws away old stuff, makes room for the new stuff, and keeps us from going crazy in reality by doing so in our dreams. In many studies, analysis shows the link between lack of REM sleep and daily performance. In a rat study, they deprived rats of their REM sleep, results showing that their thermoregulation was off balance and they hurdled to the warmest corner of their living areas. They also eventually died off from infection due to the lack of their ability to properly function. In other tests, they deprived humans of their REM sleep as well and there are reports of individuals going insane after 72 hours straight because they were denied the ability to go crazy, as you could say, in a dreaming state. After so long without this sleep may an individual start to hallucinate. In other studies, people were put to test by recording their performance on a game. When they had first played it they had all improved on it, but after going to sleep, which only half of them got REM sleep, the half that didn’t get it tended not to improve or decrease in skill, while the half that got a good nights rest improved in skill. These studies all show that REM sleep is obviously credited on daily performance and overall health necessary for survival. So the question is, how much sleep is considered adequate enough? That has many factors on it’s own, from climate, social customs, and even by an individuals personal experience. No amount of sleep is considered not to be normal as it varies from person to person. There are short sleepers (4-6 hours) and both long sleepers (8-10 hours). Time for sleep fluctuates, such as weight does, and some can go on very little sleep and function very well, while others go on lots of sleep while still not yet at their performance peak. The body and mind are both miraculous systems, and can compensate very well for themselves, but without adequate time spent sleeping, an individual may not function as well as they would normally refreshed.
So many people take sleep for granted, as do so many others go throughout life not recalling their dreams, and even some living in a nightmare all their own, waking in terror. The science of sleep has come a long way since it was first discovered, and it is sure to develop substantially more over the course of time. Knowing what dreaming is, how it is affected and how it affects a single person, how dreaming relates to REM sleeping, and knowing the importance of dreaming to an individual mammal, are we then allowed to incorporate that knowledge into one’s own life. A way to apply this information to my own life may be figuring how much sleep is adequate for myself each night in order to function to the best of my ability, and to remember subject and test material at a more favorable level. This application appears satisfactory to myself as it may seem to many other individuals, taking the study of this subject matter not just into consideration, but also appreciation.
Hobson, J. Allan. Dreaming: An introduction to the science of sleep. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.