My research into dreams and dreaming carried on this week, interspersed with investigations into the myths and legends around the Fountain of Youth, Holy Wells, and the Elixir of Life.
I’m contemplating a plot point for WAKEWORLD which would involve my heroine, and possibly everybody else, being barred from DREAMWORLD for a period of time. So my question of the week was “what would happen if we stopped dreaming?”
In my quest for knowledge on this subject I took a look at the basic science. (By which I mean anything easily accessible on the internet with the assistance of Google. No textbooks were opened in the pursuit of this knowledge, nor were any scientific papers and studies consulted. I did, however, avoid Wikipedia and Wikihow.)
I found out that dreams appear to be instrumental in balancing moods, learning new tasks, and storing memories. People deprived of REM sleep (even if they still get Non-REM sleep) have difficulty with learning new skills, although they retain any abilities they previously possessed. Their memories and mood are affected. One study indicates that insufficient REM sleep may have to do with migraine headaches. Rats deprived of REM sleep got sick and developed sores on their bodies. (I know – ick, right?)
Apparently we do dream during non-REM as well as REM sleep, but these dreams differ in quality and intensity and seem to serve a different purpose. EEGs show brain activity much like that of waking during the REM phase of sleep.
Normally we all spend a couple of hours or so in REM sleep every night, occurring in cycles interspersed with Non-REM sleep. If REM sleep is consistently interrupted, these cycles will occur closer and closer together and last longer, in an apparent attempt to make up the difference. This signals their importance to the system, although again nobody seems to be entirely certain exactly why REM is so important.
I’m not sure how this will all fit into the novel at this point, but that is part of the fun.
Anybody here ever suffered REM deprivation? Personal experiences are so much more interesting than Science.