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Sleep Stages and Dream Interpretation

Updated on April 8, 2012

A dream serves a special function for minds and our bodies. Everyone has dreams during the REM cycle of sleep and this is essential for good mental health. Some dreams are pleasant and happy, while others are nightmares.There are five stages of sleep and we enter the REM cycle 3 to 5 times each night.

In ancient times, people believed that dreams originated outside their bodies as messages from the gods or omens of things to happen in the future. Dr. Sigmund Freud, about 1895, attempted to scientifically interpret dreams but was fairly unsuccessful. Many have studied dreams but there is still much to learn. Dream experts of today focus on what causes dreams rather than the interpretation. Understanding what causes dreams is important to doctors to educate the public about prioritizing their sleep.

Baby Sleeping

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Freud, Dreams & Therapy

Five Stages of Sleep

The stages of sleep were first described by Alfred Lee Loomis in 1937, and his coworkers who separated the different sleep stages using an EEG (electroencephalography) which revealed five levels of sleep. Typically everyone passes through five stages of sleep each night

  • Stage I is a light sleep or you drift in and out and can be easily aroused. Often during this stage people will experience sudden muscle contractions preceded by a sensation of falling.
  • Stage II is a little deeper sleep where eye movement stops and brain ways become slower with only an occasional burst of rapid brain waves.
  • Stage III is where the brain waves are extremely slow and they are called Delta waves, but they are interspersed with smaller, faster waves.
  • Stage IV is where the brain produces Delta waves almost exclusively. Stage III and IV are both referred to as deep sleep or Delta sleep. It is very difficult to wake someone during deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity in deep sleep.
  • REM sleep: Dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and the rest of your body is a temporarily paralyzed at this time. During dreaming your eyes are moving rapidly; your heart beats faster; you breath accelerates; blood pressure rises, and areas of your brain that you use for learning are stimulated. Brain waves during this stage are actually increased to the levels experienced when a person is awake. Most people experience 3 to 5 intervals of REM sleep each night. Infants spend almost 50% of their time in REM sleep, while adults spend nearly half of their sleep time in stage II and about 20% in REM sleep.

EEG printout - Source Benbest

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Process of Dreaming

So, dreaming is a thinking process but on a much deeper level. Your conscious mind has slipped but away and you are very focused, plus you're totally honest with yourself as you figure out your issues. What is actually happening is you are moving information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory, so it helps us solve problems, solve information and also to organize our thoughts. Research has shown that if we constantly interrupt dreams in an individual that they will become psychotic and start seeing hallucinations, even if they get the rest of their sleep. Dreaming is essential to good mental health.

If we were not paralyzed during dreaming we would be physically acting out the dream. For some people this mechanism doesn't work correctly and oddities like sleepwalking occur, but sleepwalking is more common in deep sleep. Some studies say you can't dream while snoring, but others have not found that to be true.

Dreaming is a natural function of every mammal and bird on earth. If you own a dog you have probably seen them when you're dreaming. Interestingly enough, dogs show the same physiological cycle as humans, having REM sleep, so it is assumed they are having the same type of dreams.

Benefits of Dreaming - Summary

There are several benefits to dreaming. Dreaming will give balance to the events that happened to you during the day and the more we sleep, the more we will be able to integrate things that we learned during the day. Our bodies repair themselves while dreaming, which improves the quality of our life. Mental, spiritual and emotional coping mechanisms to help us develop creative solutions and new ways of thinking about our challenges, questions and problems in life are another benefit of dreaming.

It is usually easy to tell if you haven't slept enough as the symptoms are irritability, mood swings, and falling asleep as you're driving home from work or maybe at your desk. It is your body's way of telling you to turn off the lights and go to sleep.

Ella Fitzgerald - Louis Armstrong "Dream a Little Dream of Me

The copyright to this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

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  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Interesting read. Glad to know that dreams are healthy and help our brain process information and organize thoughts--never saw it that way. Rated useful.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

    Freud believed that dreams were "the royal road to the unconscious." And represented wish fulfillment. Many Freudian psychologists today still attach importance to the interpretation of a patient's dreams as a means of understanding a client's unconscious desires.

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

    Thanks for this very interesting article about Sleep Stages and Dream Interpretation, Pamela. I’ve learnt that one’s feelings and new and old knowledge obtained integrate in dreams – it is a process of digesting. One’s intuition might project a premonition. I’ve voted this one up in all ways.

  • profile image

    Partisan Patriot 6 years ago

    Thanks Pamela

    Rated hub up and useful; you helped me understand Democrats; they are walking around in Stage 3 sleep; their brain waves are extremely slow!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Angie, I'm glad you enjoyed the informational and I appreciate your comments.

    drbj, That it's true and I've written a second article on interpretation of the most common dreams which bears that out. Thanks so much for your comments.

    Martie, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I think you're certainly on the right track. Thanks so much for your comments.

    Patriot, That is really very funny and probably true. Thanks for your comments.

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

    Hi pamela,

    A very interesting read!!

    Useful/up for this one.

    take care

    Eiddwen

  • electricsky profile image

    electricsky 6 years ago from North Georgia

    What part of the brain do the delta waves measure as they are so much more active?

    Thanks for the hub?

  • Becky Puetz profile image

    Becky 6 years ago from Oklahoma

    Great information about the different stages of sleep. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Eiddwen, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you so much for your comments.

    electricsky, I don't think I can answer your question with any accuracy. There are five main wave patterns Gamma,Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. In my research but I kept reading about was the amplitude and rhythm of the waves with the Delta having the highest frequency range up to 4 Hz but the slowest waves. I know different parts of the brain are stimulated during sleep but I couldn't find information that talk about what part of the brain stimulated any particular wave. Thanks for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile image
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    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Becky, I'm glad you enjoy the information on sleep stages and I appreciate your comments.

  • profile image

    electricsky 6 years ago

    One more thing you might already know but I read in Wiki. that those with parietal brain damage never dream. Are they normal as far as their day thinking? Also, what do insomniacs do? Don't they ever have problems functioning in the daytime?

  • Money Glitch profile image

    Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

    Hi Pamela, Thanks for the info concerning the sleep stages and dream interpretation. Was glad to read that people usually experienced 3 out of the 5 stages, because I believe that is what is usual for me. Just love those silly dreams you wake up from, hhhmmm, one day I'm going to seek an interpreter. :)

  • Pamela99 profile image
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    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    ectricsky, From everything I've read anyone who never dreams is not normal and in fact they are psychotic. I may write an article about insomnia and some other aspects of sleep but if you do not get enough rest you don't do well physically or mentally.

    Money Glitch, I know when I wake up from having some silly dream I always wonder know what it really means and I guess you have to really work at it to interpret your dreams which I wrote about in my second article many of mine really don't make much sense. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • BlissfulWriter profile image

    BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

    Yes, sleep is definitely important. American's are becoming more sleep-deprived. Did you know that a quarter of a million American fall asleep at the wheel each day? http://hubpages.com/t/221951

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Blissfulwriter, I didn't know it was that many I that that fell asleep at the wheel I know insomnia is a big problem in America. Thanks so much for your comments and I'll check out your hub.

  • rpalulis profile image

    rpalulis 6 years ago from NY

    Thanks for sharing the 5 stages of sleep, what a very informative hub you have published here. Nothing like a good night sleep Our bodies know what's needed for optimal health, I think this is great, and love my dreams. Sweet Dreams- Rob

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

    Ingteresting. I never knew anything or thought about it.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    rpalulis, I agree that our bodies do know what is needed for optimal health. Thanks so much for your comments and sweet dreams to you Rob.

    Hello, Thank you so much for your comments.

  • daffodil2010 profile image

    daffodil2010 6 years ago

    great information thanks

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    daffodil, Thank you so much for your comment.

  • skye2day profile image

    skye2day 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    pamela wow very good, I liked this. There is also Bible verses on dreams. I will have to find it and get to you. Sweet dreams sister. Love you.

  • skye2day profile image

    skye2day 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    christ4ever left a comment on my dream hub. 'Dreams are a great way for the Lord to get messages across to us. Not always easy to translate, but as long as YOU get what He's saying, that's what counts. Dreams are where I get much of my own inspiration. The things that jumped in my head just now were (Luke 10:17-20) and (1Samuel 17:47), we are so blessed to know the Lord and have confidence that it's His battle to fight for us, not necessarily ours.

    christ4ever pointed me to the scriptures I thought, awesome! So fyi I thought you might be intersted. Christ also tells us that in the latter days there will be an outpouing of the Holy Spirit also given in dreams and visions. I know my dreams came from the Lord. He had a message I was to write. It is not that I am good but because He is GOOD and wonderful and awesome and He causes the rivers to flow and the seas to rage. He is King of Kings. All Glory to God.

    Thank you again for your hub!! Great info. Hugs Galore.

  • Pamela99 profile image
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    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    skye, I have had some dreams that I believe were from the Lord but I don't always understand them. They are distinctly different from my normal dreams. Thanks so much for the scriptures and the comments.

  • crystolite profile image

    Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

    Thanks for shearing this 5 stages of sleep, is wonderful

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    crystolite, I'm so glad you enjoyed the hub. I appreciate your comments.

  • SUSANJK profile image

    SUSANJK 6 years ago from Florida

    It's great to learn about dream interpretations. Thanks.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    SusanJK, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for your comment.

  • newnewyinsur profile image

    newnewyinsur 6 years ago

    nice article,,i didn't know that dream is healthy :)

  • sonia05 profile image

    sonia05 6 years ago from india

    very interesting hub!

  • Wayne Brown profile image

    Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

    I have often heard it mentioned that you must awake from an REM sleep cycle in order to remember a dream you were experiencing...otherwise you will have no memory of a dream...is that the case? Good article...I learned a lot! WB

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Wayne, From my research I would say that is the case almost all the time. The only exception would be if you have a dream right before waking up in the morning you may remember bits of it. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile image
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    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    newnewyinsur, Thanks for your comment.

    sonia, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comment.

  • ChristineVianello profile image

    ChristineVianello 6 years ago from Philadelphia

    I love this hub. I find topics on sleep very interesting. I voted UP!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Christine, Thank you so much for your comment.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thank you for an interesting and informative hub. I find the study of dreams and dreaming fascinating, in humans and in animals. All my dogs have shown rapid eye movement periods as they sleep. Dreaming is a very interesting phenomenon!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    AlicuaC, I agree, as I think studying dreams is very interesting. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • Puppyluv profile image

    Serena Zehlius 6 years ago from Hanover, PA

    Voted up and rated useful. I love reading about dreams! I also like researching sleep because with 3 kids I rarely get any. :)

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    puppyluv, Good luck with getting some rest as I know how it is with three kids as my 3 are now grown. I appreciate your comments.

  • toknowinfo profile image

    toknowinfo 6 years ago

    Excellent hub and filled with great information. Proper sleep is integral to good health. We can all relate to feeling better after getting enough sleep. This is a well done hub, and I thank you fro all the info and the video. Rated up and useful.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    toknowinfo, I certainly appreciate your very kind comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

    I love this hub very much and I always learn from you every time I visit your hub. Well done, Pamela. You always in my heart. Sorry for late give this comment. Rated up. God bless you.

    Prasetio,

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    prasetio, I'm glad you enjoy this hub and you know I think you're very special. I appreciate your comments. God bless you.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Pamela, I was fascinated by your article. The information was well written and well thought out. It held my interest from the first word. I always wondered why I couldn't remember my dreams, now I know.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    KKGals, I always wondered why I couldn't remember my dreams either but I learned a lot doing the research. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I appreciate your comments.

  • emilybee profile image

    emilybee 6 years ago

    Very nice hub. I heard somewhere that if you repeat your dreams outloud upon waking up your dreams will stick and you'll remember them and it surely works. Thanks for sharing the 5 stages of sleep.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    emilybee, I think it would help to repeat the dream if you can remember it, then write it down. thanks for your comment.

  • creativelycc profile image

    Carrie L. Cronkite 6 years ago from Maine

    I've always and still enjoy studying about dreams. It's a very interesting subject. Enjoyed reading your hub with very good information.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    creativelycc, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Dreams are really interesting. Thanks for your comments.

  • lctodd1947 profile image

    lctodd1947 6 years ago from USA

    Your have explained this so well. I have often wondered the things you have shared with us in connection with our daily life. Most of the time I do not remember my dreams. What is that a sign of??? I know that we dream every night and some people remember their dreams as if they were real.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Linda

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    ICTodd, The only time I remember dreams if I wake up in the middle of one or maybe if it occurs just before waking. Even then unless it was truly unique I soon forget. I read somewhere that taking Vit. B6 before bed helps you remember dreams but I haven't tried it. Thanks for your comments.

  • thecoffeewrite profile image

    Keneesha M Hodge 5 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

    Dreams are an interesting part of life. Since I began writing lyrics I have dreamed of songs and those dreams are so vivid it's almost hard to tell I'm dreaming until I'm awake. The worst part is I dream the best work I think I'm capable of, but as you said in your last comment, if it doesn't occur just before I awake, that work gets lost in the dream world. I do wonder though what makes one dream more memorable than others? Sometimes I find I can fully recall a dream. Never tested the B6 theory though.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

    thecoffeewrite, I'm not sure why some dreams are more memorable except the ones you dream just before waking. It seems like I have times where I remember my dreams frequently and other times where it seems like I'm not dreaming of all. I wish I had the answers but maybe you could try the B6 as it's an expensive and you have nothing to lose.

  • Debby Bruck profile image

    Debby Bruck 5 years ago

    Pamela ~ Very good information on dreams, the dream states and benefits of sleep. I jumped over here from my poem because this hub was listed as "related." Glad I visited, Nitey nite! Hugs, Debby

  • Pamela99 profile image
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    Pamela Oglesby 5 years ago from United States

    Debby Bruck, Thank you so much for your comments. Hugs to you also.

  • Pamela99 profile image
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    Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

    Thanks for your comments.

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    anonymous 3 years ago

    Of the panoply of website I've pored over this has the most veyiactr.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    Dreaming is a subject that has always been fascinating to me. Your article is very informative yet easy to follow and understand.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 3 years ago from United States

    Rebecca, I am glad you enjoyed this hub and I appreciate your comments.

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