REM Sleep & Remembering Dreams
REM (rapid eye movement) dreaming sleep usually occurs in ninety minute cycles throughout the night, before the onset of a period of SWS. As the night progresses, these intervals of REM increase in length until finally, the last two hours of slumber contain a high percentage of dreams. Therefore, we are more likely to catch ourselves dreaming towards the end of sleep – between the hours of five and eight in the morning for the average person.
REM sleep is relatively simple to identify in others. The brain-waves emitted are different from SWS and bear a closer resemblance to the waking state. In addition to slight twitches in the face, fingers and toes, the heart may beat faster and breathing can become shallow and rapid – apart from the actual rapid eye movement itself.
Unlike the state of being awake, however, the body is subject to external paralysis – only the eyes and respiratory, and other essential systems remain functional. It is said that the inability to move while dreaming is a safety mechanism inherited from our ancestors, to prevent us from acting out our dreams. Although there is no doubt that it stops us from wandering off during the night, we prefer to think that this safety mechanism goes deeper than that.
It is not just humans who become paralysed while experiencing a dream. Anybody who has ever watched a cat or dog dream of running will recognise by the twitching paws that they are also affected. Just imagine the consequences if all living creatures didn’t experience paralysis while dreaming.
At best, very few would wake up in their own beds. The worst scenario, however, is one of complete chaos. Throughout the night hours, the streets would be a riot of people and animals, running, jumping out of windows, fighting, fleeing from monsters, involved in love tangles, attempting to fly and so forth.
Not one single shred of evidence pertaining to living creatures who dream, has ever been uncovered to suggest that paralysis during REM sleep is as a result of evolution. Unless we suspect, that is, that dinosaurs failed to develop this safety mechanism and went wandering in a body during dreams into unseen hazards where they finally perished!
That things evolve is fact, but is it reasonable to assume that by some sort of random, quirky accident of nature, a few of our ancestors developed this ability to ‘freeze’ physically during REM sleep, and were the only ones who survived – their genes eventually being passed on to the rest of humanity? As this is how the world of conventional science explains evolution within species, how did this same ability manage to bridge the species divide? Another quirky accident? Evolution? We prefer to believe that this safety device is the result of a much higher design.
Perhaps evolutionists might argue that this ability developed before the division of species evolved. In answer to that contention, let us consider briefly the sleeping habits of a few other species.
To state the obvious, we know that animals sleep, but do they all share the same type of sleep? First, to support the fact that things do indeed evolve, we will compare certain peculiarities which exist in species.
Like humans, mammals, except the Australian spiny anteater, have been shown to exhibit SWS and REM sleep. However, there are great variations between species regarding the amount and quality of sleep – depending on such things as whether they are predators or preyed upon.
Cats, for example, can sleep perhaps as much as 16 hours a day. REM sleep appears cyclically, roughly every 30 minutes. Birds show a SWS/REM cycle too, with partial muscle paralysis – they clearly require a degree of muscular control for perching. Rats may sleep for about 13 hours a day, but have many sleep periods, each of about ten minutes, throughout the 24 hours.
But when we look at the sleeping habits of rabbits, the distinction of the evolutionary argument about paralysis during REM sleep evolving before species divided, becomes considerably less convincing. Rabbits, unusually, do not exhibit the paralysis of REM sleep. They sleep for a total of about eight hours, but like rats – another species of rodent – sleep is broken up into many short periods.
What really puts the argument to rest, is the realisation that porpoises and dolphins exhibit a strange phenomenon in sleep – one half of the brain goes to sleep at a time. These creatures, also, do not show any loss of muscle tonus in REM sleep.
These curious variations between species as regards the REM-paralysis phenomenon show that there are no clear cut explanations of these matters! There are mysteries yet to be resolved and simplistic theories simply will not do.
However, back to the human animal. Often, when people are woken from REM sleep, they find that they are incapable of functioning for a few moments. They are, however, able to remember their dreams. So it is essential, if we wish to record them, to ensure we waken during these periods.
Apart from recording dreams for the purpose of interpretation, there are other powerful reasons. It is believed that the precognitive dream may be a far more common event than is supposed.
According to the Time Life book, ‘Dreams and Dreaming’, researchers were stunned when they studied 290 random dreams and discovered that an amazing 8.8% could be classed as paranormal: they had aspects which, under normal circumstances, could not be explained. Indeed, the experience known as deja vu might occur as a result of acting out part of an unremembered precognitive dream.
Because it is usual for most people to remember only tiny fragments of dreams, it is hardly surprising that the evidence to support this theory is not stronger.
There is another cogent reason why we should learn to recall dreams – in order to achieve Lucid Dreaming.
Therefore, the following method for remembering and recording dreams is recommended: Position an alarm-clock near enough to turn off with eyes still closed. It should be set to go off about an hour before the usual time for getting up. Keep a Dream Diary – a pad and pen next to the bed. Record what food and drink were consumed before retiring, and any significant event which occurred during the preceding day.
On retiring for the night, use the power of suggestion. State firmly that you will be able to recall a dream on awakenening.
When the alarm sounds, keep one’s eyes closed – the moment one opens them, dreams have an annoying habit of evaporating. While maintaining your original position while dreaming, recall as much of it as possible – go over it several times. This way, more and more of the dream will be brought to mind. When one is satisfied that as much as possible of the dream has been recollected, write it down in detail, including the date and time.
Then try distracting the mind for a few minutes – perhaps with a crossword puzzle. Finally, form the habit of going back to sleep until your usual getting up time.
At first glance, this procedure may seem rather strange. If, however, you wish to induce a Lucid Dream, at a later date, it is important to learn to waken, memorise a dream and then go back to sleep. Should the idea of lucid dreaming hold no attraction, follow the same procedure, but instead, set the alarm for your usual time.
If this routine is followed, you will be surprised how soon you will develop a capacity for remembering dreams surprisingly quickly.
(Continued In REM Sleep & Remembering Dreams Pt 2…)
Authors Details: David F. Melbourne Web Site
David F. Melbourne, who lives on a remote Scottish island, has been studying dreams for 25 years and is known all over the world for his accurate dream interpretations. Apart from the general public, he has analysed dreams for celebrities and famous authors, all of whom have admitted a high degree of accuracy.