World Sleep Day: Myths and Realities of a process worth knowing

World Sleep Day: Myths and Realities of a process worth knowing

Why do we dream? Researchers have tried to solve this question through different areas for centuries. The most validated answer today comes from neuroscience: It is suggested that the production of dream content, that is, dreams, are closely linked to the memory processes that occur during sleep.

And when we sleep, our newly acquired memories are spontaneously reactivated and transferred from the hippocampus (where they are temporarily stored) to the neocortex (where they are permanently stored), integrating with previously stored memories.

What is estimated is that this reactivation and integration of memories could be responsible for the formation of the content of dreams.

Sleep also influences emotional processing. This is why it is believed that emotions have an impact on our dreams. This was evident in the early phases of compulsory isolation, in which many people reported having more vivid dreams, loaded with high emotional content.

The theory that dreams occur during REM sleep (REM) has long been theorized for a long time. But this information is wrong. Currently we can say that we dream in all phases of sleep.

This is why, in the laboratory, when dreams are studied and induced in situ, it is important to awaken the person in order to recover the dreams that occur in the different phases and thus know their similarities and differences.

Another of the many questions that was formulated within the scientific community, and that is worth highlighting today on World Sleep Day, is related to what happens in our brain when we dream.

The longing for this answer corresponded to the intention of being able to anticipate when a person is dreaming.

Finally it was discovered that the fact of dreaming can be predicted through the activity of a specific area of ​​our brain, called “parieto-occipital”, and that the electrical activity of our brain can be observed by using electroencephalography.

Nevertheless, it is a reality that we can have control of our dreams. One of the best known cases is that of lucid dreams, a special type of dream in which we realize that we are dreaming, which allows us to have access to our entire repertoire of memories and modify aspects of the dream at will.

During REM sleep all our muscles are inhibited, with the exception of the muscles of the middle ear, the muscles that allow us to breathe and move our eyes.

That is why, in a lucid dream, the person can leave a mark that determines the beginning and the end of a lucid period. From the Sleep and Memory Laboratory of the ITBA you are taught that, when you realize you are dreaming, make a movement with your arm from left to right and follow it with your eyes.

Thus, the eyes move in a characteristic way and the researcher can detect in real time that the person is in a lucid dream.

In recent times, researchers, in addition to detecting when the person was in a lucid dream, they were able to establish communication with the dreamers in real time. How they did it? The moment the lucidity mark was left, they began asking simple questions using a loudspeaker in the dream room.

The dreamers responded within the dream with the movement of their eyes the result of mathematical calculations and simple answers of “yes or no”.

Lucid dreaming is currently being used to help people who have recurring nightmares, they are also used in improving motor skills and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, they have been proposed as an excellent tool to enhance creativity.

In short, with advances in science, sleep has proven to be a fascinating, complex process, and that it can help us to have a better life.

Ben Oakley
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