Experts are firm when they tell us that it is not sleep that rejuvenates us, but it’s the dreaming that does the trick.
If we think we never dream, we’d better hope we’re wrong. The experts say dreams are safety valves to our mental well-being (depression) and though we seldom know it, we dream many times every night.
We’re told that if we’re deprived of dreaming for three or four days (alright, nights) we begin to have mental disturbances. In other words, to be mentally healthy, we need lots of dreams.
Tests show we all follow the same pattern. Our first dream period begins about 90 minutes after falling asleep and lasts about ten minutes.
Then, in approximately hourly intervals, dream periods occur and each is progressively longer. The pattern differs with age, with the infant dreaming over 50 percent of its sleeping time, diminishing as they get older, until those over 65 have short dream cycles.
Older people, they find, may sleep longer than when younger, but their dream periods are shorter. They often complain that sleep fails to refresh them, and they’re right, but it is the decrease of dream time that is making itself felt. Not lack of sleep.
Extensive studies have been made in recent years on sleep deprivation as well as dream deprivation, and the results are startling.
Observers identify the dream periods of volunteers, by noting the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) periods, which are the signs of dreaming. Results show that we dream far more often than what we remember, and this is the answer to all mothers who have wondered over their infant’s almost constant quick blinking during sleep.
If the sleeper is wakened during the REM period, he is deprived of the dream even though he is immediately allowed to continue sleeping. If all dream periods are interrupted for one or two consecutive nights, the sleeper begins to show depression, or other mental disturbances, even though the actual sleep time is as great as usual.
When deprived of dreaming for only one night, the volunteers felt no disturbance, but the next night their REM periods were almost twice as long as usual.
Experts are firm when they tell us that it is not sleep that rejuvenates us, but it is the dreaming that does the trick. And they carefully note that by dreams, they do not mean the ones caused by over-eating, or getting twisted in bedding, etc.
Some circumstances and illnesses affect the REM time. Much of the ‘hangover’ that follows a ‘big night out’ is traced to alcohol in the blood which, if too high a percentage, will not permit dreaming. And if continued over many nights, hallucinating will occur, and depression will linger until the blood is free of all traces of alcohol, thusly allowing the person to have at least one long night of REM periods.
Psychosis, neurosis and other mental disorders are affected by lack of REM time, and experiments are now being made to find if some people are, for some reason, unable to dream and so have mental problems, or, if the mental disturbances come first and causes the lack of REM.
Either way, we better not say we never dream, because if we really don’t, the ‘little men in white coats’ just might come calling, to assist us in getting some good REM time. Dreams, we find, aren’t just funny things to tell and laugh over the next day at the office.
In other words, the experts tell us that if we’re depressed, we better keep track of our dream periods. They’re mental safety valves, and to great extent, control our peace of mind.