Who Put That Dream into My Head? Old Question. Do we have New Answers?

By Dina Golbin, Med. Student 3, RPSGT

Once an old man form Georgia (used to be a part of the former Soviet Union) came to our sleep clinic with the strange question:’ Who and why put a bad and repetitive dream in his head?” What has happen was that this man was about to celebrate the 60th year  anniversary of a happy marriage. About a hundred relatives, children and grandchildren are coming to Chicago from all over the world. To his dismay, he started to have a vivid dream about his pre-married days, and in this dream his wife- to- be had a sex with his friend. He woke up, went to the bathroom, fall back to sleep, and….the same dream came right back with even more dramatic details. On the third night with the same dreams he woke up his wife, told her about this dream and asked her if this was true. His wife half awakened, admitted to all his detailed description of a story that had happened 60 years ago. She begged him to forgive her, and, if he wants, she let him to have a sex with any women…

He came with a preoccupation not as much about betrayal, but about who and why put this dream in his head NOW. He believed it was done on purpose using “Black Eye Magic” by his enemies. We used this idea to treat this poor man using the “white magic” through a hypnotherapeutic suggestion.

But his question about who put dreams in our head and why is still the Question.

At about 30 years ago Dr. Rechtshaften from the University of Chicago, who was the author of the fist manual for analyzing sleep records, designed an usual experiment. He placed rats on the tiny board surrounded by water. Rat was very comfortable on this board with enough food until she wanted to sleep. At the beginning of sleep she was also fine until she hit REM stage. As he new in REM muscles get paralyzed and she slides to the water. Sure it was enough to wake her up. She got back on board and the end of the story was the sickness of the rat and eventual death. Conclusion: the loss of REM sleep is dangerous for your health.

Thanks to 80th – there were no animals rights groups and political correctness did not ruined science yet.

In our days, specifically in 2004 heroes from University of Wisconsin at Madison replicated Rechtshaften’s experiment with rats in even more brutal way – instead of board they used a tube with the drainage hole in it. They found that this rat without drams after the experiment lost capacity learn survival behavior. Treatment with amphetamine did not help, as it usually do to increased REM. Researchers concluded that dreams have a function to train the survival behavior.

Freud saw dreams as fulfilling forbidden aggressive and sexual wishes. Nightmares while  as too scary for a daytime personality.

The recent “official” sleep science in the mouth of Allan Hobson from Stanford viewed dreams as “epiphenomena”: He said: ”it is the noise of the brain makes while it’s doing  its homework”

The Finnish psychologist Antti Revonsuo from University of Turku was far away from America and was not afraid to state that dreams are the training playground, dreams have the function to train the person to behave in the traumatic situations automatically – run, scream for help etc. Dreams are rehearsals to prepare for some decisive moment in your life when you have to life death decision in a split moment.

Our night mare are not misfirings of  the diseased brains but the work to find solutions.

Revonsuo found that two thirds of our dreams are  threatening, about 300 to 1.000 threat dreams per year, aggressive and a culture – bound: instead of wolves – now we dream about car crashes or TV monsters.. Some times our dreams are like allergic reactions give you frightening dreams about benign situations.

David Folkes called dreams “credible world analogs”.

In the jungles of Amazon lives tribe called Mehinaku- huntergatherers. They believe that dreams predict the future, there are scrupulous about remembering them. In 1981 anthropologists Thomas Gregor surveyed their dreams and analyzed their content.- The dreams were about everyday dangers – being attacked by wild animals, bitten by a snake.

Revonsuo came up with dreams as “threat-simulation” theory.

In this content we should mention the work of Vadim Rotenberg from Moscow, now Israeli sleep researcher who experimentally proved that in our dreams we are searching for solutions. As long as we are searching our body is on the survival mode. He called his concept :the search theory and it was published recently in the textbook Sleep Psychiatry (Taylor&Frances,2000, London).

After September 11 many people have nightmares about escaping from the terrorist attacks.
We propose a compensatory function of dreams as a part of Set theory.  Dreams function to “offset” stress . we agree with Revonsoi that “ their function is to protect and prepare us”. As psychologist from University of Maryland Clara Hill couples that dreams about their relationship are more likely to resolve their conflicts that couple who do not.”

A famous expression “sleep on it” before any decision to make, we got better by just dreaming about the tasks as a sleep researcher from Harvard Medical School Robert Stickgold proved in experiments with students. He came to the conclusion that “our brain put things together”

In summary, dreams are learning tool for the developing brain. They prepare us to disasters, but they also planning for the for future or attempt to solve the daily problems by concrete advices or fantastic analogies.

 References: A Golbin at al.(Ed) Sleep Psychiatry. Taylor&Francis, 2000. London
Jay Dixit. Psychology Today.2007: 91-94