Perspectives on Dreaming Essay

1007 Words5 Pages
Perspectives on Dreaming

"That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream…."

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Each night, visions inhabit our minds during sleep and vanish with the morning light. These visions, these dreams, are without substance. Often, the waking mind recalls dreams only vaguely, if at all. A complete, separate world seems to exist within each of us; a world that can only be found through sleep, through dreams. What are dreams? Why do some people find nightly reverie in the comfort of their beds, while others dread sleep, terrified of the content of their dreams, and yet others recall no dreams to fear or fancy?
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The extent that external activity modifies dreams is difficult to ascertain because the person is often awakened by such activity.

A possible purpose for sleep is that decreased responsiveness allows the brain to undergo "dynamic stabilization," or DS, which is essentially the activation of synapses in neural circuits of the cerebral cortex to enhance and maintain neural functioning (2) . Generally, DS does not initiate the activation of a neural circuit because of extensive inhibition of the motor neurons, and is therefore "non-utilitarian", meaning that there are no visible physical results (2) . DS can occur during consciousness, but the cerebral complexity of warm-blooded vertebrates requires more DS than can occur simultaneously with the processing necessary for waking thought and perception. Sleep thus evolved to provide the brain with a condition virtually free from external distraction (2) .

DS occurs most frequently during REM sleep (2) , which is also the state biologically most suitable for dreams (1) . DS that occurs in the regions of the brain responsible for conscious thought is therefore a possible physiological explanation for dreams. Dreaming could be "a very short-term unconscious awareness" of the DS process that occurs during sleep (2) . Poor recollection of dreams would be expected in this situation, since the brain would have no
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