ROCHESTER, Minn. — People with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder act out their dreams. While sleeping safely in bed, for example, they might throw up their arms to catch an imaginary ball or try to run from an illusory assailant. Such actions are more than just a nuisance. People with the disorder have a 50% to 80% chance of developing a serious neurodegenerative disease within a decade of diagnosis.
Dreams are very egalitarian. I really believe that one person knows just about as much about dreams as another person, since almost all of us do a lot of it, and no two theories about dreaming are the same. However, I would like to give you some of what I have learned from my own dreams and readings about them. In addition, I have included a reference that discusses Scientific dreams studies in some detail.
When I was about 14 years of age, and burning up with a desire to learn more about medicine, I bought the only “medical” book I could find in Grass Valley, California: The interpretation of dreams, by Sigmund Freud. I vividly remember being amazed at how Freud could figure out the symbolisms in the dream case studies he published. The interpretations were not at all clear to me, even after I was told the answer, and chewed on them a bit. I subsequently read the opinion that a lot of them were made up. The essence of Freuds theory of dreams is that they were wish fulfillments, which is patently not always true.
REM sleep was linked to dreams in 1953, a couple of years before I graduated from medical school. For years, dreams were studied in a unitary context of REM sleep, and in the opinion of some, this has slowed down progress on the knowledge of dreams immeasurably. We now know that dreams are not always linked to REM sleep. Dreaming can be neurologically interrupted, while REM sleep goes on. REM sleep can be eliminated while dreaming goes on.
So we go back to the starting block; what are dreams?
The Ancients put a lot of stock in dreams, such as Joseph’s dreams predicting a seven-year drought, which earned him a place on the pharaohs Staff. Martin Luther thought they were the work of the devil. My son Michael thinks they are a good thing, since when you dream you are sleeping, and sleep is a wonderful restorative.
My own theory is that they are random fragments of experience which are ordered and supplemented to form a story. These random fragments can either be from recent experiences, perhaps being consolidated in memory, or old experiences that are being pruned as unnecessary. These snippets are then aggregated under the influence of mood neurochemicals, and flow out in the dream narrative.
Sensations coming in from the environment can play a role. I will always remember the story of a sleep study patient, who was slapped on the back of his neck by a wet towel. He awakened immediately, and vividly remembered a dream about the French Revolution, in which he was guillotined. I read that dreams take 5 or10 minutes of time to develop, however.
I dream almost every night, and most are forgotten rapidly. Some have enough detail and meaning for me too mull over before I get up. Some of my more common dreams are of flying, or getting lost. The pleasant dreams are definitely in the majority. Only rarely, a sinister one will wake me up.
The following reference details about 50 of the most common dreams that people experience. Much other pertinent information is contained. What is your theory on the causes and meaning of dreams? You probably have as good an idea as anybody else.
“We’ve discovered that fragmented sleep is associated with a unique pathway — chronic circulating inflammation throughout the blood stream — which, in turn, is linked to higher amounts of plaques in coronary arteries,” said study senior author Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience.
Disrupted nightly sleep and clogged arteries tend to sneak up on us as we age. And while both disorders may seem unrelated, a new UC Berkeley study helps explain why they are, in fact, pathologically intertwined.
Some tips to improve sleep quality
Maintain a regular sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
As part of a nightly wind-down routine, avoid viewing computer, smartphone and TV screens in the last hour before bedtime, and keep phones and other digital devices out of the bedroom.
Engage in some form of physical exercise during the day.
Get exposure to natural daylight, especially in the first half of the day.
Avoid stimulants, like caffeine, and sedatives, like alcohol, later in the day.
UC Berkeley sleep scientists have begun to reveal what it is about fragmented nightly sleep that leads to the fatty arterial plaque buildup known as atherosclerosis that can result in fatal heart disease.
“How much sleep do we need”, and “Sleep Hygine” were past topics on this site, and my own sleep fragmentation was mentioned. This study correlates sleep fragmentation in the elderly with increased blood vessel disease compared to elderly people who have no interruptions in their sleep.
The elderly have several obstacles to a good, full night’s sleep, although a fair number of my friends claim the blessings of sleeping soundly. As we get older, we lose the deepest sleep we enjoyed as children, and there is some loss of REM sleep as well. The elderly sleep more lightly.
Diseases begin to accumulate as we get older, and These DISORDERS and their TREATMENT can disrupt sleep. I mentioned My BPH with it’s blockage of flow, leading to incomplete emptying of my bladder. This led to FREQUENT URINATION and frequent arousal at night.
With aging, the tissues in the throat become more flabby, and if you SLEEP on your BACK, your inhalation may be blocked. This may result in OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA, where your breathing and sleep are interrupted repeatedly. The associated SNORING may interrupt the sleep of your partner, or even the sleep of those in the next room.
GERD, where you choke on regurgitated stomach contents, is more common in the elderly.
Chronic Heart, lung and Kidney disease can interfere with sleep. SLEEP DEPRIVATION leads to a variety of problems, such as the inflammation and Arterial blockage highlighted in the above article.
Sleep is intimately connected with DIET and EXERCISE. As one of the PILLARS of HEALTH, It s well worth discussing with your Doctor and following her instructions.
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