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Tatiana L. Scaife
Mr. Steven Beech
28 January 2020When are people more likely to dream?
The concept of dreaming in humans is highly complex and has gained interest in discussions, research, and hypothesis for a long time. Many scientists have attempted to explain the psychological mechanisms as well as the function of dreaming in psychiatric, neurological, philosophical, and psychological perspectives (Zhao, Hongyi, Dandan, and Xiuzhen 118). A wide range of theories have emerged with the development of scientific technology to elaborate on the dreaming mechanism. Dreaming has been a debatable topic since time immemorial. Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates discussed the meaning of dreams and concluded that the prevailing concepts about them were inaccurate. Instead, they claimed that spirits, gods, and ghosts provoke the dreams by taking over the mind to express themselves in the dreaming process (Cristina 99). Due to the elusive nature of the dreaming process, only a few basic questions in the existing dream research literary work exists. Some of the various questions include the length of a dream, the number of dreams than one can have in a night, whether a person can recall a dream, either partly or entirely, and how one can control a dream. This research paper focuses on explaining when people are likely to dream. The article utilizes a systematic review of the literature to explain the concept of dreaming using a variety of dream theories.
The relevance of the Study
Answering the question on when people are likely to dream will add insight into the dreaming process because the concept is still a mystery of human cognition despite been studied for more than a century. Personally, the dreaming process fascinated me since childhood, and I was surprised when I realized that the topic remains unexplored in research. This research paper focuses on shedding more light on the dreaming process and provide a comprehensive understanding of why and when people dream.
This research paper focuses on explaining the period when people are likely to dream. The article reviews theoretical literature to examine the various theoretical perspectives related to the dreaming process and develop a framework to understand the concept of dreaming. The search strategy of this paper entails the use of different search engines such as Elsevier, Google Scholar and EBSCOhost to gather relevant scholarly articles. The inclusion criteria of the selected item into the research includes articles published in English, written not later than 15 years, available in full content, and related to dreaming research. The search terms for the strategy included Dream (s), dreaming concept, dreaming time, NEM-sleep, and dream theories, among others. The research paper utilized a systematic review of literature methodology after collecting relevant articles and developing the research question. The term dream has a wide range of meaning, but for this study, a dream means the mental activity that occurs during sleep.
Review of LiteratureWhen are People Likely to Dream?
People are likely to dream in the REM or rapid eye movement sleep. Individuals dream in this stage of sleep's cycle when they may be less likely to recall the dream. Scholars generally research sleep's physiology in humans in sleep laboratories using electro-oculography, electroencephalography, and electromyography (Sayed 3). The laboratories enable researchers to see the differences between sleep's arousal stages through measurements of muscle activities, eye movements, and brain activities. When dreaming, the human brain goes through four stages with different characteristics in brain activities' waves and REM-sleep (Sayed 3). The steps one to four are also known as (non-rapid eye-movement)-sleep.
The first sleep stage occurs for about ten minutes and is the very light sleep from which individuals can easily wake up. The stage marks the difference between wakefulness and sleep, characterized by theta activity (Sayed 3). The second phase entails deeper sleep and is an irregular stage containing some theta activity periods, sleep spindles or short bursts of waves, and sharp, sudden waveforms. Steps three and four represents the most profound sleep (McNamara and Bulkeley 3). Stage four occurs after 15 minutes of stage three, and the two phases contain delta activities (Sayed 3). The third and fourth phases of the sleep contain unclear distinctions because they both contain high-amplitude delta waves. However, the fourth phase has higher wave proportions, almost 50%, while the third stage contains only 20-50%.
The REM-sleep occurs about 90 minutes after a person goes to sleep and after the fourth stage of sleep. Sudden changes occur following the 90 minutes of sleep onset where the eyelid assumes a to-and-fro darting movement between closed eyelids. The electromyography demonstrates profound losses tonus in muscles, and the electroencephalography becomes mostly desynchronized (Sayed 3). The condition refers to as the REM-sleep, which includes small amounts of beta activity along with theta waves, mostly seen during stage one of sleep or wakefulness (McNamara and Bulkeley 3). The REM-sleeps occurs for 20 to 30 minutes before restarting of the sleep cycle altering between NREM and REM-sleep. Every cycle occurs for about one and a half hours (Sayed 4). Therefore, a person sleeping for eight hours may experience REM-sleep in four to five periods, which prolongs for each cycle. In the first half of the night, individuals mostly experience low wave sleep, followed by NREM-sleep bouts that increasingly consists of stage two sleep.
Kleitman and Aserinsky, in the 1950s, focused on investigating the possible associations between dreaming and REM-sleep. The researchers observed infants and adults and hypothesized that emotional "disturbances" occurring when a person enters REM-sleep indicate the dreaming process (Sayed 4). The scholars later awakened their research subjects in the middle of REM-sleep and found that most of the subjects produced dream reports. The results linked the physiological occurrence of REM-sleep and the phenomenon of dreaming, and a wide range of studies have now confirmed it, marking it. Other studies have shown that people can also dream in NREM-sleep (Sayed 4). However, most theorists use variable arguments from the value they give the dreaming process in NREM to provide a basis to their theory.
Theoretical Background of Dreaming
Different academic groups focusing on dreaming research have proposed a few theories during the century-long period of experimental science. However, the function and mechanism of dreams remain unknown. The various theories of dreaming include the threat simulation theory recently proposed by Antti Revonsuo, a Finnish psychologist. The theory explains the fearful features of the content in a dream. Revonsuo explained that dreams act as virtual training grounds to improve threat avoidance or fighting abilities. The theorist postulated that nocturnal training makes the person dreaming more efficient at resolving threatening situations in the future during wakefulness.
Sigmund Freud, a neurologist, postulated the psychoanalytic theory to explain the dreaming mechanism. Freud's theory of the human mind posited the selection rules and organization of representations constituting a dream (Zhao et al. 119). He termed a dream as a highly mental product that is a result of certain mental functions under the conditions of sleep. According to the theory, the meaning of dreams is not actual as recalled by a dreamer but found in "latent dream-thoughts" some of which are not conscious (Zink and Pietrowsky 40). Freud postulated that association processes uncover latent thoughts to the dream's manifest features by primitive forms of thinking predominant in a dream, primary process mechanism (Zhao et al. 119). The mechanism includes displacement and condensation. Displacement refers to emphasis' shift from an element to another, while condensation is the fusion or combination of various components into a single one. The mechanism also promotes the need for censorship, disguise, or conflicted wishes to avoid sleep disturbance and excessive anxiety. In the model, the brain acts as attempting to synthesize the generated information (Zhao et al. 119). The model directly derives the dreams' formal qualities from the brainstem stimulation properties. In this view, dreams lack meaning. However, some meaning may develop secondarily in the forebrain's efforts to make sense of its stimulation, in determined physiologically (Zink and Pietrowsky 40). The activation-input-modulation model explains the entire spectrum of mind-brain states' spectrum in neurobiological terms using a space concept of three dimensions based on activations variables, modulation, and input source. Activation variables refer to the level of brain activation, while modulation refers to the neuromodulator balances between cholinergic and aminergic influences. Input source, on the other hand, refers to the internally generated versus external sensory (Zhao et al. 120). The rapid-eye-movement sleep, therefore, is seen as involving a high activation level, aminergic demodulation, and internal input rather than external. The aminergic demodulation is associated with diminution of qualities such as memory, self-reflective awareness, orientation stability, and logic.
A hypothesis in cognitive neuroscience recently focused on crediting dreaming and sleep with a memory consolidation role. Initially, decreased performance in subjects deprived of sleep during the post-training day indicated that brain activity replay at night leads to memory consolidation (Zhao et al. 120). However, experimental results in human recently argued supporting the role of dreaming as such in memory consolidation. Researchers believe that memory consolidation involves the extraction of generalities and integration of various experiences (Zhao et al. 120). During a dream, the intermingling of memory portions into various, and sometimes strange combinations could reflect the adaptive mechanism. However, both the discontinuity hypothesis and continuity hypothesis conflict. The two hypothesis support dreams' consolidation function, although some phenomena on interest exist during dreaming. In extreme cases, for instance, discontinuity could occur as weirdness in dreams or dissociation in waking (Zhao et al. 121). Rapid-eye movement dreams are often weird, featuring curiosity, eliciting feelings of bizarreness, or mystic upon awakening.
Domhoff and associates postulated a neurocognitive theory of dreaming to explain the dreaming mechanism. The theory explained that dreaming is the product of adequately activating the mature brain and disconnecting it from external stimuli in the absence of self-reflection (Zhao et al. 122). The similarities between dreaming and mind-wandering supported Domhoff's theory. A study focusing on the thinking nature in support of a default network revealed two subsystems within it. Thoughts about future decisions and personal situations activate medial temporal subsystem, while instructions to think a present metal state or about the current situation activates the dorsal medial subsystem. The former deactivation and latter activation might illustrate the reason why dreaming as intensified mind-wandering often focus on a dreamer's regret about the past, relationships with close people, and worries about anxiety that arouse future events (Zhao et al. 122). In the opinions of Domhoff and his colleagues, dreams probably do not have a function, but they have meaning and coherence, often combined with function.
Hobson and his colleagues developed a model called activation-input-modulation to describe the neurological and sites interactions in the brain stem that plays a critical role in generating REM-sleep. The designers view the brain in the model's activation portion as providing direct and random stimulation of the forebrain such as motor systems, vestibular, and oculomotor, accounting for the prominence of dreams' movement and visual elements (Zhao et al. 122). During REM-sleep, the researchers hypothesized explicitly that the pontine brainstem generates Ponto-geniculo-occipital waves which spread to the occipital cortex and lateral thalamus' geniculate body. The waves barrage the ransom stimuli, which then synthesizes dream images that correspond to their patterns of activation in attempts to give meaning to the stimulation generated internally.
Sleep works to integrate the humans' minds into their daily behaviour through the experiences of dreaming. Just as waking experiences shape a person's behaviour, neurons interact with the experienced world through the dreaming process. When asleep, a human's unconscious minds create a dreaming environment, interpreted as real as the physical environment (Hobson, Allan, and Schredl 4). The created environment is a representative of past experiences, present memories, and entirely subjective and unique imagination thriving inside a person. The dream environment represents individuals' unconscious minds manifesting through experiences in a dream. As people dream, they interact with people, experience life, ponder thoughts, take in sensory information, and create problem-solving skills (Hobson, Allan, and Schredl 4). Individuals may not remember the decisions or how the ideas in their head led them to act in a certain manner in a dream. However, individuals are usually in one dimension consciously aware of their environment. The human brain is still active during sleep, and people even learn and interact through their sleep experiences.
In summary, none of the theories discussed in this paper can fully explain the mechanism of dreaming. The various reasons for the gap include deficiencies in the available research because of the inherent methodological limitations involved in examining mental processes occurring while people sleep. The various theories only focus on addressing limited sets of questions necessary to develop a comprehensive theory.Limitations
The various challenges encountered in conducting this research includes obtaining reliable, up-to-date scholarly sources. An attempt to present a context, in a topic with insufficient empirical evidence was overreaching. The research paper utilized some articles published as long as 13 years ago because of challenges finding recent, relevant scholarly sources.Conclusion
People are likely to dream in the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Dreaming refers to the cognitive state uniquely experienced by people and integral to their creativity, innovation that provides the basis for science and philosophy, and the survival characteristics that allow for the rapid change. However, there is little scientific or empirical research supporting the generally accepted neuroconscious' theories of a dream. Various theorists have posited theories to explain the concept of dreaming. The theorists generated hypothesis within neurocognitive and psychodynamic perspectives where they have proposed a wide range of functions. The various perspectives indicate that dreaming and dreams may pose adaptive advantages in simulating practical social skills, solving intellectual and emotional problems, and consolidating memories. This research paper presents a framework to integrate a wide range of proposed dreaming theories. Aspects that explain when people are likely to dream lack empirical evidence, but this study is an excellent start to progress dream research further to avoid speculations. With the ongoing technological advancements in cognitive neuroscience, the findings of this research paper may provide insight to further to provide clarity. Such advances may enable researchers to provide accurate answers to advance the understanding of the processes involved in dreaming.Works Cited
Hobson, Allan, and Michael Schredl. "The continuity and discontinuity between waking and dreaming: A dialogue between Michael Schredl and Allan Hobson concerning the adequacy and completeness of these notions." International Journal of Dream Research (2011): 3-7.
McNamara, Patrick, and Kelly Bulkeley. "Dreams as a source of supernatural agent concepts." Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): 283.
Sayed, Lena. The function of dreams and dreaming: moving towards an integrated understanding. MS thesis. 2011.
Valle, Angela Cristina do. "Physiology of dreaming." Sleep Science 2.2 (2009): 99-115.
Zhao, Hongyi, Dandan, and Xiuzhen. "Relationship between Dreaming and Memory Reconsolidation." Brain Science Advances 4.2 (2018): 118-130.
Zink, Nicolas, and Reinhard Pietrowsky. "Theories of dreaming and lucid dreaming: An integrative review towards sleep, dreaming and consciousness." International Journal of Dream Research (2015).