We write about them, talk about them, think about them and, at times, even worry about them. Our dreams can reveal many things about us, but now a doctor at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine is worried that we are facing an epidemic of ‘dream deprivation.’
The paper details the various factors that cause rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dream loss. Typical sleep follows a pattern in which deeper, non-REM sleep is prioritized by the body. Only later in the night and into the early morning do people experience dreaming, during REM sleep.
“We are at least as dream-deprived as we are sleep-deprived,” noted Dr. Naiman, University of Arizona clinical assistant professor of medicine.
He sees REM/dream loss as an unrecognized public health hazard that silently wreaks havoc by contributing to illness, depression, and an erosion of consciousness.
“Many of our health concerns attributed to sleep loss actually result from REM sleep deprivation.”
According to WellAndGood.com, “To get back to dreaming (and keep your mental and physical health in check), Dr. Naiman wrote you need to focus on restoring your REM sleep. The first step? Kick those shut-eye-stealing factors out of your life. That means maintaining a low stress level, prioritizing those eight crucial hours of snooze time a night, and not giving so much power to your alarm clock.”
Major factors in REM sleep and dream loss are commonly used—and in some cases, abused—substances, including medications, alcohol, and cannabis. While a glass of wine with dinner or occasional marijuana use is probably fine, he (Dr. Naiman) warns it is unclear what impact newer hybrid varieties of cannabis may have on REM dream loss. Marijuana “is very seductive, because some strains can help people fall asleep,” he says. “But in the long run, just like alcohol, it interferes with REM sleep.”
Dr. Naiman’s review is titled, “Dreamless: the silent epidemic of REM sleep loss” in the “Unlocking the Unconscious: Exploring the Undiscovered Self” issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. It details the various factors that cause rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dream loss. Click on the link above if you’d like to dive a little deeper into this subject.
Reader’s Digest ended its story on Dr. Naiman’s review by writing, “The biggest takeway from the paper? We are experiencing dream deprivation is because we don’t value our dreams enough, even though they reveal a lot about who we are. Looks like we better start putting the phrase “sweet dreams” to good use!”
Share your thoughts on dreams and dream deprivation. Generating meaningful dialogue around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!