When we sleep we do much more than just “rest our weary bones”; we tap into our subconscious mind (Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). The subconscious has much to offer about oneself. The average human being spends one third of their life in sleep and during each sleep approximently two hours is spent dreaming (Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). These dreams are important because they are the voice of our subconscious.
Dreams and theories on dreams go as far back as 2000 BC in Egypt. One of the first organized glimpses into the diagnostics of a dream came in an Egyptian book called the Chester Beatty Papyrus, its author is unknown. In ancient Greece dreams were believed to be messages from the gods. In later centuries, Hippocrates (a Greek physician), Aristotle (a Greek philosopher), and Galen (a Greek philosopher) believed that dreams often contained physiological information that may be cause of future illnesses. Artemeidorus documented and interpreted thousands of dream reports in his book Oreiocritica (meaning “critical dreams” in Greek). His ideas were later abandoned, and no further progress was made in the study of dreams until the late 1800s. That was until Sigmund Freud wrote his book The Interpretations of Dreams in 1900. After its publishing, dreams became a popular topic once again.
The modern day idea that dreams come from our daily life is partially accurate. When I say “partially” I mean only a specific aspect of dreams comes from daily life interactions. The imagery in dreams comes from daily life (Freud 1900). You must understand that the subconscious can only talk in a language that the conscious can understand, therefore it uses imagery. So to put it in lay terms “You’ll never see an object in dream that you haven’t seen in your daily life”(Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). This statement raises an interesting question. “What do blind people who never see anything dream about?” The answer to this question is even more puzzling. The subconscious speaks to blind people using all other sensory modalities such as hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Instead of seeing things blind people will hear or smell things in their dreams. Helen Keller talked of “seeing” in her dreams much as she saw when she was awake (let it be stated that Helen Keller was blind). The subconscious is usually the right side of the brain or the opposite side of persons writing hand. Within the subconscious lie different types of things such as suppressed emotions, creativity, and basic human instinct (Ullman and Zimmerman 1979. The conscious part of the mind works when people are awake and is the part of the mind that handles things that people can understand. No one truly knows why a person can’t interact with the subconscious while awake, however studies show that dreams are a way in which people can better comprehend its behavior.
The condition of the body during dreaming is interesting because the brain shuts off all sensory receptors thus, canceling all somatic impulses (Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). This puts the body in an almost paraplegic state. The brain however continues to control all autonomic functions such as blood flow, heart pulsation, and lung inflation. During the sleep, homeostasis will fluctuate because sleep occurs on four stages (Davidmann, 1998). The individual goes from awake to stage 1, then to 2, 3, and finally 4, the deepest stage of sleep. After spending about twenty minutes in stage 4, they return to stage 1 and progress back to stage 4. The individual will continue to make these cycles throughout their sleep. Most individuals will experience about 4 to 5 cycles a night (Davidmann, 1998). This is why humans are more apt to wake up at specific times in the night and not sporadically (most people do not notice this however). During stage 1 the individual will experience what has been named REM (Rapid Eye Movement), I will make further elaboration on REM momentarily. For now I would like to point out that during REM the body will show more signs of consciousness by spontaneous muscle contractions, flagellate excretion, and oculomoter coordination (eye movement). The body will experience these tensions and reactions because this is the active time of sleep in the average human