Posted by: beagle4 | April 11, 2011

Ahhh.. Not Again

Last Saturday, I spent 8 wonderful hours of my life taking the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Throughout my life I have found that typically the night or two before an important exam, I have dreams related to either failing the test or trying to figure out a specific question related to the subject. Friday night was no different; I remember in my dream I kept using tables to look up thermodynamic properties of different compounds. It seems like even though I have decided that I am ready to take the test, my brain decides to attempt to keep learning and problem solving to help me prepare. Luckily, the other scenario that occurs every once in a while (dreaming about failing the test) did not happen. Usually this type of dream puts me in a stressed/nervous/anxious mood initially after I wake up.

The interpretation of dreaming about a failed test is quite easy to identify when the dreamer is a student (many students have stressful tests about once a week). A failed test is a literal interpretation of past, present, and future tests in you waking life. Oddly enough, good students usually dream more about failing tests because they hold themselves to higher academic standards; so no need to worry if you constantly have dreams about failing a test. Dreams about failing a test for non-students is more difficult to interpret. For non-students, failing a test in a dream can represent a number of fears in real life. They can represent a feeling of inadequacy, low self esteem, or a lack of confidence. These dreams would typically occur when you are feeling “tested” in waking life. They can also indicate that the dreamer feels they are being judged. Like other dream warnings, these dreams can be a signal for the dreamer to examine their life. Failing a test could also represent a fear of letting someone down or a fear that you are not meeting other’s standards. (source)

Test dreams could also suggest that you are feeling unprepared for a challenge. Although the subject of the test may have nothing to do with your life, the feelings felt while taking the test in the dream are often parallel to how you are feeling about a particular challenge or situation in your waking life.

One dream that is common to the past two to three generations in the United States is the recurring final exam dream. Dr. Judy Willis, a neurologist and classroom teacher, explains this in her blog, Radical Teaching, in a post titled Recurring Final Exam Dream. In this dream, you have to take a final exam for a class that you forgot you were taking and are completely unprepared for. Additionally, some dreamers also have the dilemma of not being able to find the exam room, having to go to the bathroom, or finding the exam room door closed when they arrive. Often people wake up without ever entering the room and seeing the exam, but knowing that the outcome was bad. Personally, I have only had this type of dream once (at least that I remember). Oddly enough, in the dream I believe I was taking a final for an LAIS class at Mines that I signed up for, but for some reason I never attended the class and I forgot that I was registered for it. I remember I didn’t know the location of the test and had to run up a spiral staircase trying to find the test room which was changed multiple times. Once I finally made it to the room, I had no idea how to solve any of the questions on the test, since I had never attended a single class.

These kinds of dreams usually don’t start until high school and may not start until college is completed. Dr. Willis also says that this type of dream is common to countries with educational systems that emphasize high stakes formal written tests that determine your future academic opportunities. She is curious if the U.S test pressure is influencing the frequency or age of this type of dream. She feels that test pressure is draining joy from learning and that this toxic impact of test pressure should be stopped. Maybe all classes at Mine’s should learn from this….(although doubtful).

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | March 30, 2011

Care for a Drink?

With E-Days coming up, I thought it would be fitting to have a post about the effects alcohol has on dreams. For me personally whenever I have a drink, regardless of the quantity consumed, my dreams always seem more vivid and kind of crazy/unusual. I generally have interesting dreams under normal circumstances though, so it is difficult for me to tell if the alcohol is the cause or just a coincidence.

Outside of the college campus, alcohol is used extensively as a sleep aid in the general population. In a recent survey, 28% of insomniacs indicated that they had used alcohol to help them fall asleep. The use of drugs and intoxicating drinks was also common in almost all ancient societies in order to enhance the experience of dreaming. The ancient Greeks used hallucinatory substances for religious purposes and various Dionysian cults encouraged their celebrants into ecstatic dream-like states through the use of wine.

The overall effects of alcohol on sleep are complex and somewhat paradoxical. Experiments on healthy, non-alcoholic volunteers revealed that the amount of relaxed, deep sleep (Stage 4, delta-wave sleep) increases, while the amount of REM sleep decreases. This creates the impression that one has slept more deeply and soundly. In order to observe these sleeping effects, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 50-milligram percent (0.05%) or greater is needed (In Colorado, a DUI is 0.08% BAC or greater). Since alcohol is metabolized rapidly, by the middle of the night individuals that had a few drinks earlier, will have withdrawal symptoms. These may include shallow sleep and multiple awakenings, REM rebound (explained below) associated with nightmares or vivid dreams, sweating, and general activation.

If you have the same amount of alcohol for three to four nights and then stop drinking (E-days weekend…), during the latter half of sleep you may experience an increased amount of REM sleep and increased wakefulness or light sleep. This is also known as an REM rebound, where the length, frequency, and depth of REM sleep increases. This, however, is not consistent for non-alcoholics, but may still occur. Also, alcoholics may experience intensely disturbing nightmares during withdrawal. (source)

I hope everyone has a good E-Days, and maybe make a note of how the alcohol is effecting your dreams.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

(Image may change later)

Posted by: beagle4 | March 20, 2011

Deepest Desires of Men and Women

One suggestion made on ways to increase the number of comments received on your blog was to write about a controversial topic. Well, I’m not really aware of any controversial topics related to dreams. Please inform me if you can think of any. The only real controversy in the dream realm is on how to interpret a dream. Even still, I wouldn’t really consider this controversy since there isn’t any public debate or dire need to express your opinion about dream interpretation.

So for this post I will write about the next best thing, a topic that most people would be embarrassed to discuss publicly, sexual dreams. All semester I have wanted to include a video from South Park on my blog, but couldn’t really find the right topic that related. I feel that with the topic of sexual dreams, a video clip from South Park is fitting. In this clip Kenny gets high from cheesing (snorting cat piss) and passes out and starts to dream. I do not condone cheesing in any way. (The video clip is from South Park, so I apologize if you are offended in any way. South Park is rated TV-MA generally intended for adult audiences. The clip contains sexual images and violence. Watch accordingly.)

Dreaming about sex and having dreams of a sexual nature is incredibly common, and is nothing to be ashamed about. I feel that Dr. David Delvin does a good job explaining why humans of both sexes have sexual dreams: “We dream because of the intense activity that is constantly going on in our subconscious minds. And since sex is one of the most powerful of all human drives, it’s not surprising that so many dreams have a strong sexual content. If we have deep urges to do certain things, they are highly likely to come out in our dreams – where our consciences cannot prevent them happening.”

According to an article on ScienceDaily, a source for the latest research news, approximately 8% of everyday dream reports from both genders contain some form of sexual-related activity. At first, this percentage didn’t seem that significant until I thought about it; approximately once every twelve days a person has a sexual dream. This percentage comes from a study to determine the nature and context of sexual dreams completed in 2007. The study was conducted at the University of Montreal, by Dr. Antonio Zadra, who collected 3,500 home dream reports of men and women. From the data, sexual intercourse was the most common type of sexual dream content, followed by sexual propositions, kissing, fantasies, and last masturbation. Current or past partners were identified in 20% of women’s sexual dreams, compared to only 14% for men. Not surprisingly, multiple sex partners were reported twice as frequently in men’s sexual dreams.

As you probably could have guessed, Sigmund Freud concluded that almost all dreams represented some form of sexual repression. In his book “The Dream in Primitive Cultures” Freud explains his belief that anything in the form of a container was a symbol for the vagina (ex. box, bowl, tunnel) and anything oblong or suggestive of penetration represented the penis (ex. sticks, knives, pencils). Even walking up and down stairs was considered a sex act in Freud’s mind. (source) I personally would have to disagree with Freud on this one. I would agree that in some instances, dreams work in mysterious ways, and that these images could be censored versions of subconscious thoughts and desires in a hidden form. However, not everything is about sex! (at least for me personally, I’m not sure about the rest of humankind.) It is quite obvious after you wake up if you had a sexual dream. I don’t think dreaming about being in a tunnel is an automatic symbol that you were dreaming about a vagina.

Like analyzing regular dreams, studying sex dreams can also give you great insight and may have layers of meaning. It is possible that sexual dreams can be a sign of sexual frustration. If you have gone without sex for a long time, your unconscious will attempt to satisfy your sex drive in your dreams. Also, it is not uncommon to have sexual dreams about someone that you are not in a relationship with or even about an ex. This does not instantly mean that you would rather be dating someone else, just a clue to analyze your relationship on a deeper level.

I have created a poll out of curiosity. Answers are anonymous and it doesn’t tell me the name of the person that voted only the results, so don’t feel embarrassed to vote.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | March 13, 2011

Goo Goo Ga Ga

When looking back on my childhood, the earliest memory that I can remember is details from when I was 4 years old. My earliest memory is that I painted my thumb green as a member of the “Green Thumb Club”. Every event that happened before that time is a mystery to me. Sometimes I like to think that I was randomly placed on the Earth at 3 years old, and that is why I only remember details from then on. This leads me to my question for the day: Do babies dream? It would make sense that since all of us at one time were babies, that anyone would be able to answer this question. But clearly, that is not the case.

I found a game on called Baby Dreams. The game is kind of odd, but still fun. I beat the first level and then stopped playing. Here is a transcript of the introduction of the game:
-Look at him, darling. He’s dreaming.
-But he’s just a baby. What does he have to dream about?
-Being in the womb? He won’t remember the dreams when he grows up.
-They have no memory yet. They don’t know what this world is.
-I wonder what we dreamed of when we were babies?

To determine if babies dream, sleepwaves would have to be measured. In 1966, Dr. Howard P. Roffwarg and some associates conducted a study to determine whether newborns dream by looking at their sleep waves. From the results, it was determined that newborns dream even as early as the first day they are born. (Ontogenetic Development of the Human Sleep-Dream Cycle) As can be seen from the graph from the report, infants experience more hours of REM sleep than adults.

Babies spend 50-80% of sleep time in active/REM sleep, compared to only 25% for adults. Some researches, carrying their investigation into the womb, state that at 24-30 weeks gestational age the unborn baby dreams a 100%. (source) When babies sleep they start with a brief REM phase, then advance through the four stages of quiet sleep (consists of drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep and very deep sleep), and then move back into REM sleep (repeating the process). Dreaming may even have a part in developing the babies brain since they need so much more sleep than adults and spend more time in a dream state. In fact, babies may even have more vivid visual dreams than adults due to the fact that a baby’s visual part of the brain is more active during their REM period than an adult’s.

As I’ve explained in previous posts, the content of dreams is greatly influenced by daily activities (tetris game example). Also, babies do not have any understanding of language or clear concepts of people and things. So what exactly are babies dreaming about? It is believed their dreams would only consist of the subdued light they see and noises which they hear such as their mother’s voice, heartbeat, and voices outside the womb. After birth, babies may dream about the things that occur during their brief moments awake such as the touch of their parents, the sound of their environment, and the feel of their surroundings. (source) However, it is not fully clear the exact context of baby dreams (you can’t keep dream reports for babies like they do for adults).

Another question I had was, do babies cry after waking because they are having nightmares? Chances are babies do not have nightmares since they haven’t grasped the meaning of fear yet. Dr. Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, suspects that “bad dreams don’t occur until age 2 or 3 when they have a better notion of being afraid and an active imagination that can conjure up the bogeyman.” (source)

Many parents also notice that while their baby sleeps they smile and look happy. This, however, is not a result of dreaming. As a baby’s brain grows more neurons become active. Each neuron has a different function and causes the muscles to move. Therefore, these facial expressions are not a sign of dreaming.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | March 12, 2011

Cheese Please

There are many old-wives tales about the foods you eat before you go to sleep and their effect on dreaming. One of them is that if you eat cheese before bedtime, you’ll have nightmares and experience a restless night of sleep. In 2005, the British Cheese Board conducted a scientific investigation to see if this myth was true or not. (Yes, there is an entire board dedicated to educating the British public about eating cheese as part of a balanced diet.) The intention was to hopefully use the results to encourage more people to eat cheese before bed. I found a discussion on National Public Radio (NPR) featuring Nigel White, the secretary of the British Cheese Board. Listen if you would like, it’s a short interview.

The British Cheese Board gave 200 volunteers(100 male and 100 female) two thirds of an ounce (about 19 grams) of cheese a half-hour before bed for a week. All volunteers kept a dream diary documenting the type of sleep and dreams that they experienced. Six different types of British cheese were given to an equal number of participants. The cheeses included: Stilton, Cheddar, Red Leicester, British Brie, Lancashire, and Cheshire. The study was endorsed by Neil Stanley of the Sleep Research HPRU Medical Research Centre at the University of Surrey.

The conclusion of the study was that eating cheese before bed will not only aid a good night’s sleep, but different cheeses will in fact cause different types of dreams. Of the 200 volunteers, 72% slept well every night, 67% remembered their dreams, and none recorded experiencing nightmares. The different type of cheese eaten before bed influenced the content of dreams. The Stilton cheese seemed to cause unusual dreams with 75% of men and 85% of women experiencing odd and vivid dreams. Oddly enough, 65% of the people eating Cheddar dreamt about celebrities, 65% of participants eating Red Leicester revisited their schooldays, 100% of the female participants who ate British Brie had nice relaxing dreams whereas male participants had cryptic dreams, 67% who ate Lancashire had a dream about work, and over 50% of Cheshire eaters had a dreamless sleep (source). By selecting the type of cheese you eat before bedtime may help determine the very nature of often colorful and vivid cheese induced dreams.

One potential explanation for the effects cheese has on dreaming is tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids found in milk used to make cheese. According to Dr. Judith Bryans, a nutrition scientist at Britain’s Dairy Council, tryptophan has been shown to reduce stress and induce sleep.

So, does eating cheese give you nightmares or have any negative effects like the old-wives tales claim? According to The British Cheese Board, the answer is no, but it does appear to increase dream intensity which helps you to remember more dreams. Cheese may produce more vivid and emotionally charged dreams, depending on the type of cheese you eat. So try it out for yourself and have some cheese before you go to bed, I know I will.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | March 6, 2011

Universality and Quantification of Dreams

Everyone dreams, that is known. After waking up from a dream, you can go to the magical internet and try to interpret the content of your dream. Why can you do this? The answer is clear, dreams are universal. Everybody dreams of the same content. Regardless of your class, culture, religion, race, gender, age, etc. people in every country of the planet are dreaming about the same things according to Patricia Garfield, President of the Association for the Study of Dreams. Not only are people dreaming about the same content today, but the dream content is the same as dreams from the past and will be the same as dreams in the future. Garfield believes that there are 12 basic dreams (themes) that a person can have, each of which can have either a positive or negative version (photographed in the image below).

Everyone remembers having to take biology at some point in their educational career and learning about taxonomy, the science of classification. This is when we learned about the plant and animal kingdoms, and learned about genus and species of a specimen. Garfield explains the necessity of a dream key (an index), which contains the general (genus) and the specific (species). According to her, once we have such an instrument, dreamers can easily locate one or more of the universal dreams they are experiencing. By comparing their individual dream to the variations of a worldwide dream theme, people will be able to grasp the most probable meaning of their dreams. (Article) In Garfield’s classification the twelve themes are labeled 1-12. They are then sub-divided into numbers which separate the negative from the positive dreams. The negative form appears first since it is more frequent (e.g. 1.0-1.49) and then the positive, or uplifting, form follows (e.g. 1.50-1.99).

Dr. Garfield is not the first person to attempt to classify the content of dreams. From the 1940s to 1985, Calvin S. Hall, a psychologist, collected more than 50,000 dream reports at Western Reserve University. In 1966, Hall and Robert Van De Castle published The Content Analysis of Dreams in which they outlined a system of coding rules in order to do a quantitative dream content analysis. From the coding, it was found that people all over the world dream of mostly the same things.

I found an online version of an in-depth book called Finding Meaning in Dreams: A Quantitative Approach written by G. William Domhoff, Hall’s protégé, that explains in detail the very complex Hall/Van De Castle system. I obviously do not recommend reading the entire book, I just wanted to provide the link in case anyone was curious and wanted more information. The Hall/Van de Castle system consists of ten general categories, most of which are divided into two or more subcategories. The ten general categories are:

  • Characters
  • Social Interactions
  • Activities
  • Striving: Success and Failure
  • Misfortunes and Good Fortunes
  • Emotions
  • Physical Surroundings: Settings and Objects
  • Descriptive Elements
  • Food and Eating
  • Elements from the Past

For each category, there exists specific coding rules on how to code each dream report. The rules for each category can be found here. I decided to look over the rules on how to code characters present in a dream. From what I understand, you go through the dream report and code each character using the following table of coding:

The overall Hall/Van de Castle system seems complex and contains a lot of rules, but once the system is understood it appears that it is easy to use to code a dream report (i.e. steep learning curve at first, but then not so bad). I also noticed that not all of the general categories contain a nice easy to use summary table like the one provided for character coding.

This system was applied to 200 people total (100 men and 100 women) with each person writing down 5 dream reports (500 total dream reports). The results make up the normative tables for the coding system. The tables can be found here. The percentages for each category seem relatively the same for males and females. The Hall/Van de Castle system helps to quantify dreams in order to further study them. By having a general index of dreams, dreams can be compared easily.

The Hall/Van de Castle system is not the only coding system for the content analysis of dreams available. Over the years other systems have been developed including Foulkes and Rechtschaffen (1964) and Winget and Kramer (1979). Assigning a code system to dreams is the first step towards understanding the true meaning of dreams. By creating a collection of dreams, dreams can be quantified and hopefully we can reveal more about them.

*I apologize that the images in this post are small and hard to read. Due to the width of the blog that is the largest it will allow the text image to be (at least that I can figure out). In order to view the image more easily, please click on the image and it will open a larger version. Thanks.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | February 28, 2011

I can’t hold it in any longer..

A couple weeks ago I was sick and had a high fever. After searching online, I found that the internet recommends to drink plenty of fluids and to sleep. So I did just that. Well, as most people are aware, if you drink a lot of water you will have to go to the bathroom quite frequently. As I was sleeping, I kept having dreams about having to go to the bathroom and trying to find a toilet. This awoke me, and of course I immediately got out of bed and went to the bathroom. This made me wonder, does dreaming about toilets/bathrooms usually mean that you have to go to the bathroom in the real world?

Oddly enough, the DreamTree Blog that I have been referencing had a blog post about the very subject. The post was written by Dr. Gillian Holloway, who has been involved in dream analysis for more than 20 years. Her website provides a variety of articles about dreams including information on nightmares, recurring, and sexual dreams.

The article explains that I was correct in thinking that if you have a physical need to go to the bathroom while you sleep, that it is possible that you will incorporate that urge into your dream. However, Dr. Holloway suggests that usually dreaming about toilets/restrooms has a completely different psychological meaning.

According to Dr. Holloway, the theme of elimination and evacuation suggests a need to release psychological matter from the past. If you are surrounding by waste material in your dreams, this may indicate that you are feeling overwhelmed with trouble or emotions.

People also have dreams about searching for a toilet and when finally finding one, it is filled, clogged, or unusable. This dream is common for people who put their own needs after everyone elses (these people are know as “givers”, and sounds similar to my mom). Most of the time these dreams can be viewed as metaphors for release and understanding of what is no longer needed. The post also provides clues about toilet themes in dreams that I have copied into this post:

“Toilet Themes Information

  1. Toilet Overflowing: Your cup runneth over with emotions or tiresome experiences.
  2. Defecation in Public: You may have expressed yourself inappropriately, “dumping” on someone; or feel that you have exposed private business in public.
  3. Clearing a Blocked Toilet: You may have recently solved an old problem, or let go of hard feelings.
  4. The Toilet is Exposed: You may be in a situation that compromises your usual sense of privacy.”

I am pretty confident that the reason I had my dream about going to the bathroom was fully due to the fact that I physically needed to go to the bathroom. The blog post about toilets reveals that dreams usually are hidden metaphors (for example, toilet theme number 2 “dumping” on someone). By looking at the objects/actions in our dreams, we can analyze and interpret our dreams and come to a better understanding of who we are or the subconscious issues that we are having in the real world.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | February 22, 2011

Man’s Best Friend, a dreamer?

The only differences between a human brain and a dog brain are the size and proportion of the brain structures. The average weight of an adult human brain is 1300-1400 grams compared to only 72 grams for a dog (beagle) brain (source). In fact, all mammals have the same basic brain structure. In addition, dogs and other animals experience the same 5 stages of sleep, from slow brain waves to REM sleep (the 5 stages of sleep were discussed in an earlier post). With similar brain structures, it logically makes sense that dogs should have the ability to dream. So my question for the day is, do dogs have dreams? Well more generally, do all animals dream? This is the original article from a blog post written on DreamTree that sparked my interest.

I personally have never been a dog owner (due to my dad’s dislike and hatred of dogs), so I can’t say on a first hand account that I have noticed a dog appear to be dreaming. However, from what I’ve been told, if you ask most pet owners they will tell you that they are certain that their pets have dreams. (Please either confirm this statement or deny it if you are a pet owner). Sleeping pets commonly display dream-like behavior including: twitching eyelids (rapid-eye movement), quivering, facial tics, moving/twitching paws or legs, and barking/growing/snapping noises (similar to how humans talk in their sleep).

An experiment conducted at Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) in 2000 by Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie revealed more insight to the ability of animals to dream. Before this experiment, it was only confirmed that a handful of species, including dolphins and chimps, were thought to have the ability to recall and evaluate a daily sequence of events during dreams similar to the way humans can. (In a previous post I discussed how humans can learn and recall during dreams with the Tetris experiment.) In the experiment, Wilson and Louie trained rats to run through a circular maze track (the finish line contained a reward). Electrodes were attached to the rat’s brains and measured their brain activity while they ran the maze, and also while they slept. The Cambridge scientists studied over 40 different REM recordings of the rats. Half of the rats repeated the neural pattern that was displayed while the rats were completing the maze, and the signature of the brain activity matched/revealed the exact location in the maze the rat was during the dream. The scientists after the experiment were able to conclude that rats experience highly complex dreams involving long sequences of replayed waking events similar to the way humans do. If a rat can have complex dreams, why can’t a dog (the average weight of a rat brain is 2 grams).

The actual scientific article was published in the January 2001 issue of Neuron, a neuroscience scientific journal, and demonstrates the necessity of an education in communicating science. The actual article itself is extremely scientific and complex. With the help of news articles written for the general public, the findings of the experiment are easier to understand (Source 1 and Source 2), however, a lot of the actual scientific explanation/equations are missed.

Without any scientific experimentation, in my opinion the easiest way to find out if animals dream, would be to simply ask them. So why don’t we? Penny Patterson, an ethnologist, did just that. After communicating using sign language with two trained gorillas, Michael and Koko, Ms. Patterson was able to learn about their dreams. Michael was having nightmares of humans killing gorillas, while Koko described events about people and animals (source).

So it appears that mammals that experience REM sleep, experience dreams. However, cold-blooded animals do not appear to experience REM sleep. From this statement, it cannot be concluded that cold-blooded animals do not experience dreams without first creating an experiment and gathering data, but it definitely doesn’t help their chances.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | February 20, 2011

The Last Sleep

Sigmund Freud believed that everyone has two contending basic drives: Eros, the drive towards pleasure and life, and Thanatos, the drive towards death. So what does it mean to dream about dying? Is the the rumor that if you die in your dream, you will die in reality true?

According to my research this rumor is completely false. Although it is impossible to know the content of the dreams of a person that dies in their sleep (one advantage the DreamHelmet will provide), the meaning of death in dreams is not always negative and does not result in your death. Many people, after awakening alive, report having died in their dreams with no ill effect.

Dreams of death usually result when there is great stress caused by relationships, school, career changes, depression or by the approach of death itself. Death in dreams may also be viewed as a metaphor of a new beginning or a time of renewal. They represent the ending of one phase, so that a new one can begin. Death in a dream can also mean the death or change to a part of your personality, or the end of a certain phase in your life. According to psychologist Carl Jung, dreams about death are linked to the “universal primordial imagery of personal transformation”, or simply put your old self will die and be reborn (transformed) as new.

Physically dying has a similar meaning to seeing images of death during a dream (death imagery). Death images in a dream are very symbolic and have many levels of interpretation. This website lists 8 basic levels of interpretation.

Not too much information scientifically about death in dreams as I hoped. I personally would not like to die in a dream or in reality.

Now just close your eyes and dream…

Posted by: beagle4 | February 19, 2011

Don’t Look Under the Bed

One of the scariest shows I ever watched as a child was on Nickelodeon called Are You Afraid of the Dark? After watching a new episode, I would have nightmares the following night. As most people know from experience, a nightmare is simply any dream that brings out feelings of strong fear, terror, distress, or extreme anxiety. They tend to be more common among children and less frequent toward adulthood. About 50% of adults have occasional nightmares, women more often than men. Today, nightmares have been increasingly viewed as a distinct disorder. I sadly, however, can’t remember the last time I had a nightmare. The closest I have come recently is the occasional dream where I fail or am unprepared for a test.

Although nightmares seem unpleasant and usually lead to a poor night of sleep, they are actually an extremely valuable service to the dreamer. They allow opportunities for personal healing by causing a much-needed emotional release. Nightmares are indirectly warning us about current behavior patterns or psychological imbalances that we need to remedy if we don’t want such unpleasant dreams to repeat, or worsen. Sometimes, we unknowingly respond and make adjustments in our lives after a nightmare occurs. If we attempt to block, deny, or ignore the messages of nightmares from the subconscious for too long, then it usually speaks louder to get our attention often by bringing related events into our waking lives. This can result in sickness, accidents, relationship difficulties, or other unfortunate personal circumstances that force us outright to deal with the issue.

Treatment for nightmares that do not involve medicine do exist and have shown to be very effective. Some of the most useful techniques include dream rehearsal, dream lucidity (ability to realize you are dreaming, discussed in previous post), guided imagery, and mainstream therapies. One technique presented by Dr. Barry Krakow, founder of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Sleep Clinic, is to follow a script to escape a nightmare. After waking up from a nightmare, a patient should think and change the dream to anything they want. This kind of cognitive therapy can help reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares.

Dr. Krakow’s technique has been controversial in the dream world. Some therapists feel that nightmares send crucial messages to the waking mind and shouldn’t be changed. They believe the nightmare can be analyzed and help a war veteran that has post traumatic stress. More information about the debate and a more detailed analysis of Dr. Krakow’s technique can be found in the 2 page news article here.

So, do you still have nightmares or are you like me and they are rare? What do you think about Dr. Krakow’s technique? Will changing the content of the dream after you are awake cause a permanent solution to stop the nightmares, or will it simply make matters worse?

Now just close your eyes and dream…

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