Stages of sleep and dreams Doctors say that a normal person takes about 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep, and then enters the first and second stages, during which he moves to the stage of rapid eye movement sleep, which takes about 45 minutes, and then moves to deep sleep, which It includes the third and fourth stages, and both stages also last about 45 minutes, and dreams occur during the REM stage of sleep.
Why do we forget dreams?
Doctors specializing in sleep disorders say that it is normal for a person to remember dreams, but sometimes some reasons prevent a person from remembering the dreams he sees, including:
1- Rapid eye movement sleep may not occur normally, and when a person suffers from problems at that stage of sleep, he cannot remember the dream after waking up.
2- Some medications, such as antidepressants, may cause sleep disturbances and affect dream recall.
3- Drinking alcoholic beverages.
4- The occurrence of REM sleep in which the body is almost paralyzed during dreams.
5- Various sleep disorders impede remembering dreams
6- Stress and bad psychological states.
7- Snoring and sleep apnea.
8- The occurrence of a state of sleep paralysis.
This mechanism is still not well understood, with some scientists linking the forgetting of dreams to the specificity of the action of neurotransmitters, but no detailed study confirms this.
Rapid eye movement sleep
The vision of dreams is closely related to the phase of sleep known as “rapid eye movement sleep”, which is sometimes known as “asynchronous sleep” because it includes features that mimic those of the awake-wake phase. At this stage of sleep, the eyes tremble rapidly, changes in breathing and blood circulation occur, and the sleeper’s body enters a state of paralysis known as “atonia” in Latin and “atonia” in Arabic. This stage occurs in waves lasting about 90 minutes each during sleep, during which our minds tend to form dreams.
During REM sleep, additional blood flows to vital areas of the brain, including the cortex that fills our dreams with detail, as well as the limbic system, or zonal system, in which our emotional states are processed. And when we’re sleeping, we’re most likely dreaming, and there’s a surge of electrical activity in the brain. The frontal lobe – which directs our faculties and vital abilities – remains silent.
This means that we are blindly accepting – in these times – the events that happen during them that are often meaningless until the time comes when we wake up from sleep.
Problems rememberig dreams
The problem is that the more what is going on in our dreams is mixed and rife with fantasies, the more difficult it is to perceive and retain its details. Dreams with a clearer structure are easier to remember, says Deidre Barrett, a professor of psychology.
But it is not without a chemical compound, the presence of which is vital to ensure that the details of dreams are preserved in the memory, an element known as noradrenaline. This element represents a hormone that prepares the body and mind for work and movement, and its levels decrease naturally when we are immersed in a deep sleep.
Francesca Sicleri, a doctor and sleep researcher at Lausanne University Hospital, says that clear boundaries are separating the states that we experience during wakefulness and those we witness during sleep, noting that this is not a coincidence. She asserts that it is often good that “the dream life and the waking life are completely different from each other.”
“I think if you remember all the details like what happens when you’re awake, you’ll start mixing things up (that you see in your dreams) with those in your real life,” she says.
She says that people who suffer from sleep disorders, such as “narcolepsy”, can find it difficult to distinguish between what happens to them during wakefulness and what they see in their dreams during sleep, which can leave them feeling confused and embarrassed as well. “There are people who remember their dreams too well, and they start bringing memories of those dreams” into their conscious lives during the day, she says.
Recurring dreams at certain times
It is also no coincidence that the dreams we remember most are those that occur during certain periods of our sleep cycle, those that are affected by chemicals flowing into our sleeping bodies. “Usually, our most vivid dreams occur during the ‘rapid eye movement sleep phase, when the level of noradrenaline is low in the brain,” says Sinclair.
The irony is that we may dream in the period immediately before we wake up, but our routine morning activities prevent us from remembering the details of these dreams.
Among the factors that make it more difficult for us to remember these details is that we often wake up from our sleep to the sound of an alarm clock, which leads to a significant increase in our noradrenaline levels.
This view is taken by Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher at Harvard Medical School, who says: “Some people ask me why they can’t remember their dreams, and I answer them that it happens because they fall asleep too quickly, too deeply, and wake up to the sound of the alarm clock. And their reaction is usually to say ‘How did you know this?’.
He adds that many people remember the dreams they see in the first period of sleep when their minds begin to wander and gradually separate from reality, and spectra appear to them similar to what they see in dreams, as they approach or move away from sleep. This is called the period of hallucinations.
He adds that he conducted a study years ago, in which the students were awakened in the laboratory, shortly after they started entering this stage of sleep, and the result was that “each of them remembered what he saw in his dreams.”
“Dreams are incredibly fragile in the immediate aftermath, which we don’t know why,” says Stickgold. “If you’re one of those people who jump out of bed and go about their day, you won’t remember your dreams. When you sleep longer on a weekend morning, you won’t remember your dreams. This is an excellent time to remember those dreams.”
He points out that he tells his students: “When you wake up, try to stay in the lying position, and don’t even open your eyes. Try to feel that you are in the ‘floating’ position and at the same time try to remember what you saw in your dreams. What you do in this case is to recall and review the dreams. By the time you enter the waking state, then you will remember it just like any other memory.”
Stickgold adds that there are ways with more certain chances of success in terms of remembering dreams, is to drink three large glasses of water before one of us goes to bed, warning against drinking beer, for example, instead, because alcohol is one of the disincentives to enter the stage. Rapid eye movement sleep.
He points out that drinking this amount of water will make one wake up three or four times during the night, and this is likely to happen, at the end of each wave of REM sleep.
There is another piece of advice given by some researchers in the field of sleep, which is that a person repeating himself while gradually falling asleep wants to remember his dreams, which means that he will wake up remembering these dreams already.
Commenting on this advice, Stickgold laughs: “It does pay off. If you do that, you will remember more dreams.”