Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 11, 1976 · Page 70
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 70

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 11, 1976
Page 70
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Page 70 article text (OCR)

Things That Go Bump in the Night Some of science's mos( exciting discoveries are being made ichile ice sleep. Researchers suspect that this time is spent sorting out memories, forecasting future events, and even transmitting ideas -- through dreams. In this, the last in a two-part series. If illiam Cromie tells ichy scientists suspect dreams may be as tital to our u-cll-beinp as food and sleep -- and ttcice as informative. By William J. Cromie Copyright (:) 1976 Field Enterprises, Inc. If you are normal, you spend about 1 Vi hours every night viewing pictures from the hidden reaches of your mind. Over a 70-year lifetime, you have had some 8,000 dreams and spent more than four years dreaming. It is virtually impossible to stop dreaming. If dreams are repressed by drugs, or interrupted by wakings in a sleep experiment, you soon begin to dream in different stages of sleep. Alcohol and other drugs make dream interpretation more difficult. An evening of drinking can cut your dreams in half, but withdrawal from booze produces a rebound, or increase, that may include nightmares. Barbiturates, tranquilizers, and amphetamines also reduce dreaming. Barbiturate withdrawal can bring on nightmares, while tranquilizers may make dream action more hostile. Moderate use of marijuana seems to decrease dreaming slightly; heavy use interferes with sleep. Some scientists maintain that a dreaming person is in one of the best states of consciousness to receive -telepathic, clairvoyant, and p r e c o g n i t i v e images. Stories abound of people who dream of events that later happen. 4m CHARLESTON. W.VA. Many of these cases probably involve unconscious assembly of known facts to produce the most reasonable outcome. Much more difficult to dismiss are dozens of well-documented cases of people sensing or predicting death or injury of a loved one in dreams. Whether or not ESP is involved, dreams provide an opportunity for feelings to bubble-up from the unconscious stream flowing just below the surface of awareness. Dream sleep is characterized by rapid eye movement (REM), and REM periods alternated with stages of deep non-REM sleep. Researchers who kept disturbing the REM sleep of people found that they began dreaming in the deep or transition stages of sleep. When they still managed to interfere with the dreams, their subjects began to fantasize an increasing a m o u n t during the day. All this leads scientists to conclude that dreams may be as vital to our well-being as food, sleep or love. If this is so, what purpose do they serve? One theory holds that brain growth and renewal take place during dreams, much as other tissues a n d o r g a n s a r e r e p a i r e d a n d re-energized during sleep. According to this idea, renewal would involve the manufacture of important proteins responsible for learning, memory, and thinking. Experiments demonstrate that people learning to adjust to new situations experience an increase in REM sleep. Senile and severely retarded people get little REM sleep. In contrast, premature babies spend up to 80 per cent of their time moving their eyes as if they were dreaming, and this is the time when the brain grows most rapidly. (Since premees apparently have nothing to dream about, this raises the question of whether REM is the important aspect and dreams are just a byproduct of whatever causes the eye movement.) A more popular theory is that dreams serve to catalog the day's experiences, working them through and fitting them together with past experiences . . . in other words, making memories. Adults who have nightmares experience more troubled sleep than those who dream normally. They awaken more frequently and move around more in bed. Severest nightmares start before the regular dreaming period as the sleeper negotiates the transition between deep sleep and dreaming. The fright may be associated with unconscious anxiety or feelings of danger. Dream researcher John E. Mack, M.D., comments: "Nightmares occur in response to the characteristic danger situations that humans confront in the course of development. They begin with fear of strangers and dread of abandonment in infancy, develop into fear of bodily injury in early childhood, and end with fears of failure, death, and loss of function in adulthood and old age. "Frequently the anxiety that accompanies these dangers is not evident in the lives of healthy individuals during waking hours; it may only emerge in a dream when an individual does not have available the psychological defenses normally employed during the daytime.'' Some people scream and babble incoherently in their sleep. They sweat, moan, groan, and have a glassy stare. Wake them up and ask what they dreamed about, and they cannot remember. Sleep researchers appropriately label such at- tacks "night terrors." Unlike nightmares, night terrors do not include vivid images. Brain wave records show the victims are not dreaming. During night terrors, people may leave their beds to go sleepwalking. It was once believed that both abnormalities were a way of acting out dreams, but recordings of brain wave activity reveal this is not the case -- both occur in the transition between deep sleep and dreaming. Deep sleep is when the brain sleeps and the body's muscles relax. Dreaming involves "an awake brain in'a paralyzed body," according to William C. Dement, director of the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Laboratory. Measurements made on sleepers in his lab reveal that paralysis of motor nerves in the spinal chord counteracts the activity of the dreamer's brain so he or she does not jump up and act out the nighttime fantasies. During the transition between deep sleep and dreams. Dement says "a massive functional reor- g a n i z a t i o n of the b r a i n t a k e s place." A slight imbalance in timing or chemistry, he theorizes, causes the brain to wake up and begin dreaming before the muscles become paralyzed. The result may be manifested in night terrors and sleepwalking. Night terrors can be effectively controlled with a drug called diazepam. Sleepwalking is common in young children, about 15 per cent do it at least once. Somnambulism, as it is also known, usually stops by age 13 and is extremely rare in people of middle age or older. "Some tranquilizers alleviate somnambulism," says Dement, "but the best treatment is to isolate the somnambulist in a room furnished so he cannot hurt himself." Far more Americans worry about not getting enough sleep than about night terrors and sleepwalking. No one knows for sure how many insomniacs toss, turn, and walk the floor each night, but estimates range as high as one out of every three Americans. "The most prevalent cause of insomnia." Dement states flatly, "is sleeping pills." He estimates that half the U.S. population over age 40 take hypnotic or tranquilizing drugs at bedtime. Sleeping pills increase sleep at first but lose their effectiveness in about two weeks. "If use continues, the person becomes a drug addict; the pill then causes the insomnia it is supposed to cure." Dement says. A person quickly develops a tolerance for the pills and begins to sleep less, not more. The only effective treatment, Dement insists, is gradual reduction of the .dosage under a doctor's care. Physicians should prescribe sleeping pills for no more than 20 nights, or 30 maximum, warns Dement. "If the patient still complains of sleeping problems, chances are pills were not the answer in the first place," he says. If you have trouble sleeping, experts suggest the following remedies: ··Establish a regular bedtime hour and a nightly routine that you associate with sleep (i.e., brush teeth, bathe, read). ··Exercise during the day. -Do not indulge in heavy eating after 7:00 p.m. ··Substitute a glass of warm milk for alcohol or drugs. ··Remove the television set from the bedroom. ·Jul\- / / . 1976. Surirlav Caii-ttf-Mnil

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