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The Architecture of Sleep and the Function of Dreams

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Often, sleep is perceived to be a period that a creature’s brain relaxes from the day’s activities. Unfortunately, according to many researchers and psychologists, a human’s brain is more active during sleep. It is the function of the brain to initiate the body to sleep. Therefore, the hypothalamus in the brain identifies the amount of light the body is exposed to hence adjusting the body to suit the available conditions (Freud, 2004). However, human beings may not fully understand why they find themselves sleeping, but they hypothesize that during the several stages of sleep, the brain is improving the condition of their neurons.

Sleep cycle has been established by researchers and categorized into two distinct groups: NonREM sleep and REM sleep. A human being starts with NonREM sleep which covers stages one to four. The cycle repeats itself in a reverse scenario forming the REM sleep. Dreaming falls under REM stage; children experience more of this than adults. From stage one to four, researchers argue that the brain waves keep changing (Blass, 2002). Nonetheless, all human beings despite their ethnic groups behave similarly while asleep than when awake. Stage one takes a short time; it is the beginning of sleep which many people tend to ignore it. Nonetheless, this stage may take longer than usual especially for individuals who have sleeping disorders. Just before stage one, an individual’s brain is occupied by Alpha waves due to calmness. Once stage one begins, beta waves take the place of Alpha waves (Northoff, 2011). From stages two, three and four, slow waves take control of the brain; normally the delta waves.

A complete sleep cycle, both NonREM sleep and REM sleep take approximately 90 minutes for adults, but it takes much longer time in children. A gradual process is observed from stage one through to stage four covering about 45 minutes after sleep (Blass, 2002). Stage four can take much time especially when an individual was denied or interrupted of sleep, otherwise less when no disturbance. A backward process from stage 3, 2 then 1 are passed so that by the time an individual reaches stage one, a 90 minute cycle has been achieved. Further, the NonREM-REM sleep is repeated for the whole night. As the amount of time in sleep increases, REM sleep also increases. Again, it is said that REM periods tend to occupy more time than NonREM sleep. Therefore, dreams are experienced when an individual has slept for a significant period of time, say after five hours (Northoff, 2011). Additionally, many people are likely to have dreams during early morning hours than when they are going to bed. That is why it is perceived that people enjoy sleeping in the morning hours; after eight to ten hours of their sleep.

However, sleep can be interrupted by several factors. Health problems can alter a sleep cycles. Again, changing a normal sleep timetable can influence sleep cycle, for instance, having a challenging exam the next day will require waking up early (Blass, 2002). Mind stabilization will be altered. Additionally, environmental conditions like earthquakes can disrupt a normal sleep cycle. Other factors may be age; old people are faced with insomnia hence their sleep cycle cannot be the same as that of an adolescent.

Human beings experience different kinds of dreams at different times. Depending on the condition of the mind as well as external factors, a dream can be bad or good. People who are under stress or traumatized are often faced with nightmares; they normally occur in the middle of their sleep (Northoff, 2011). Nightmares are normally horrific and terrifying; they happen as a result of real life situations. Some people can be heard talking or confronting the situation. Normal dreams, normally sweet occur when one is about to wake up; an individual gets carried away enjoying a situation that may never happen.

Freud was among the first individuals in history to write about dreams and dreaming. Much of his input was appreciated, however it received criticism. Freud believed that it was through dreaming that a state of unconsciousness would be attained. Unconscious situations represent human objectives and desires of life although they might not have been exposed. Researchers have been seen to value sleep (Freud, 2004). Much of their writing presents sleep as a main tool towards relaxation and realization of certainty. It is a state of growth in human body and ideas, especially among infants and young children. 

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