“To sleep: perchance to dream”- Shakespeare

Vitamin water and zinc may play some role in dreaming, but after class, I was still interested in understanding the influence of individual creativity in dreaming.  I was disappointed to see that at least in terms of my own PsycInfo search, there were no empirical studies about creative intelligence and dreaming. Of course, my search was full of the creative interpretation of dreams, and I found something called “social dreaming”. Social dreaming is the process of exploring and finding the social importance of dreams by sharing dreams with others. The website is an interesting one in terms of our discussion on the purpose of dreaming.

Now for an interesting historical finding in terms of the importance of dreaming: On May 23, 1960, an article appeared in Time magazine titled “Medicine: To Sleep…to dream“.  At an APA meeting, Dr. William Dement, a research fellow in psychiatry presented his findings of a sleep study that suggested that dreaming was in fact more important than sleep. In his study, Dement prevented some subjects from dreaming, while others were allowed to dream. The non-dreaming subjects were awoken prior to dreaming, while the dreaming subjects were awoken immediately following their dreams, meaning all subjects slept the same amount of time. On subsequent nights, non-dreamers tried to dream more often, as evidenced in an EEG. Despite sleeping the same amount, the participants that did not dream were more irritable. Dement suggested that even if getting adequate sleep, deprivation from dreaming can result in hallucinations as a substitute for dreams. He said, “We believe that if anybody were deprived of dreams long enough, it might result in some sort of catastrophic breakdown.”

We now know that dreaming occurs during REM sleep and non-dreaming participants were prevented from entering REM. I think this likely is a better explanation of why the non-dreaming participants were more irritable, but it is interesting to see the thoughts concerning the importance of dreaming back in the day given dreaming’s purpose is till up in the air.

3 thoughts on ““To sleep: perchance to dream”- Shakespeare

  1. Hey Sara –
    Your post was really interesting. We have gained a considerable amount of information concerning REM sleep and dreams, and I wonder if there will be a final stopping point, or answer, to our questions about dreams; will we have it all figured out one day, or will we continue to gather information bit by bit “forever?”


  2. Interesting entry, Sara, and good comment Amy. Consider context and cycles in science too… sometimes an idea just doesn’t take because the timing was not right. Altman’s discovery of ‘possibly’ dividing cells in the 60s in a great example of that. It was 30 years and a good deal of accumulated data to get folks to think seriously about what he found. And we often revive old ideas in light of new data.


  3. I don’t know if this is wishful thinking on my part, but I think that the very fascination humans have with dreams, suggests that they must have some value. I don’t know if you saw Inception (not that it’s remotely scientific), but there was a scene in the film in which a whole group of people were paying to have dreams induced because, as another character dramatically declares, this is the only way they are able to dream. I know for myself (and we’ve established that I have abnormally fantastical dreams) I think there must be some purpose to dreams, if only for the psychological comfort that they bring. How tragic not to dream!


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