Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dreaming of Dreams

Ever wonder what dreams mean? Are dreams the golden highway to the unconscious as Freud claimed? Do people get messages in dreams?  Messages from who?

A key insight is that even quite primitive animals sleep.  Every animal that has a brain sleeps, from nematodes to cameleons to grizzly bears.

What about dreams? All mammals dream including voles and mice. Some birds dream. A few reptiles. It appears that more primitive animals may not have REM sleep. 

Did you know that bears wake up from hibernation to go to sleep? The bears brain could not bare (ha) to go without sleeping.  After sleeping, they hibernate again.

It appears that sleep is a very basic behavior of the nervous system that developed long ago. It begins in the most primitive parts of the brain. Dreams are not as primitive, but how deep a thought can a lizard have?

For example, if voles dream, then how important can dreams really be. What fancy thoughts could a vole be thinking?

I tend to believe that sleep and dreams are physiological phenomena, and people place interpretations on the experiences their animal brains give them. I don't find much scientific basis for that however.