Sunday, 14 July 2013

How 'dreams' work?

Yesterday, while I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, I heard something from her like 'how does a dream occur and what causes a dream?' It was indeed an interesting question on which I've been trying to do a research for the past few days and finally here I am writing something about 'dreams'. I'm writing this article based on the knowledge acquired through a quick online research.

It is said that the 'dreaming' occurs only at the stage 5 of the sleep called the REM (Rapid Eye Movement). First of all let me explain the difference between the dream and the reality. Dream is an involuntary actions that occurs in a person's brain during sleep. The involuntary action involves production of ideas, emotions, images and sensations. Only your brain is involved in the 'dreaming' process. Coming to reality, it is a state where things actually exist. The reality allows you not only to observe but also to touch and feel the physically existing things. Here the brain as well as the body is involved. 

From the above explanation, I can put forward a rule that goes like 'during a dream the physical attributes must be disabled'. This is why 'dreaming' occurs in Stage 5 (REM) of sleep where our external body parts are paralyzed while the internal organs still work. The below picture illustrates the stages of sleep (picture courtesy: "Howstuffworks").

The above picture explains what happens during each stages of sleep and it is clearly mentioned that the 'dreaming' occurs only at Stage 5 of sleep. Here when you enter the Stage 5, i.e., REM sleep, the brain suppresses the production of chemicals like Norepinephrine, Serotonin and Histamine. These chemicals are involved for the voluntary movement of muscles and suppression of these chemicals relaxes the muscles such that the body doesn't move during the sleep. Now this question might pop up in your head - 'some people walk in dream. So what's that?' Well, that situation is called 'REM disorder' where the person loses the muscle atonia (paralysis) and starts acting their dream. This is sometimes highly dangerous and can be even violent in some cases. 

Research also states that the dreaming can occur in other stages of sleep as well. But those are not as effective as the dream that occurs during REM sleep because the muscle atonia hasn't been fully achieved during the other stages of sleep. The mental activity taking place during the non REM sleep (first four stages) are believed to be thought-like whereas the mental activity taking place during the REM sleep (fifth stage) involves highly hallucinatory and bizarre content.

The REM sleep occupies 20-25% of the total sleep time in adults, that is about 90 to 120 minutes of a night's sleep. In newborn kids, the REM sleep occupies a total of 80% of the total sleep time. During REM sleep, the electrical activity in brain is similar to how it works during the awake state but only difference with the reality is the external body parts are paralyzed in a dream state. It is also said that we humans tend to forget 95% of the dream we have within the first ten minutes of its beginning. 


  1. Great article Ashwin. Very interesting, and I always like learning something new. Thanks for sharing. :D

  2. an informative dreamy post. interesting. :)

  3. I probably will be dreaming about this today ;) nice post...

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