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Sleep and Dreams Essay


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Sleep and Dreams

What is the biological basis of sleep and dreams? The basic biological foundation for sleep is that it is essential for the replenishment of the mind and body. Inadequate sleep has negative implications on the mental capacity of individuals, is attributed to weight loss, regular motor functions and is attributed to a reduced lifespan.  Dreams can be defined as a succession of sensations, ideas, images and emotions which occur involuntarily within an individuals mind during sleep. During the 20th Century, a lot of scientific research on dreams was carried out by renowned neurologists such as Sigmund Freud and in the same period psychology was recognized as an independent branch of medical science. Freud is accredited with eliminating ancient misconceptions with regards to human behavior (Hamlin, 2010).

Where do dreams occur in the cycle of sleep, and why are they important to our psychological well-being? A sleep cycle has four stages and generally lasts for 90 to 120 minutes. Dreams occur at any stage during these four stages of sleep. The first stage involves light sleep distinguish by non-rapid eye movement (NREM), a reduction in body temperature and heart rate as well as muscle relaxation. At this stage the body prepares for deep sleep. The second stage is distinguished by a further reduction in temperature and heart rate. At this stage one is in deep sleep and the body replenishes its muscles and secretes growth hormones. The NREM is also prevalent in this stage. In the third stage one goes into deeper sleep, experiences NREM and the body’s metabolic levels are quite slow. In the fourth stage Rapid Eye Movement occurs and this happens after 90 to 100 minutes after a person goes to sleep. The heart and blood pressure increase as does the brain activity. Most dreams occur at this stage and are the one that one vividly remembers. The brain experiences a lot of random activity during the REM or fourth stage of sleep. Dreams are said to occur at this stage in the brains efforts to make up images during this period of heightened brain activity.

How did Freud use dreams to help people understand their behaviors? What evidence did he use to support the contention that dream analysis is a valid way of treating mental illnesses? Did the evidence he provide support his claims? Freud made numerous observations concerning his patient’s dreams. From these observations, he deduced that images, ideas, emotions and sensations were as a result of the dreamer’s psyche. The psyche according to Freud consists of the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious psyche relates to the waking life and the subconscious I every individual has very different objectives and expectation as compared to the conscious. He interpreted dreams as a means with which the human psyche makes the attempt to realize the pleasures that are beyond reach in the awakened life (Rand & Torok, 1997). As such, Sigmund Freud made the assumption that dreams are a means of wishful fulfillment. However, every individual does experience unpleasant dreams whether these are nightmares or not they tend to present a case for arguing against Sigmund Freud’s assumption on wish fulfillment.

What are the current ideas regarding Freud’s dream analysis? What do you conclude about using the method of interpreting dreams to treat mental illness? Modern culture has deemed Freud’s theory as inadequate. This is because Freud’s theory only encompasses psychoanalytical studies based on the culture and lifestyles of the 20th century (Rand & Torok, 1997). His input as the first psychoanalyst however helped to treat many people with mental illness over the years. Today’s modern culture has lifestyles that Sigmund Freud could not have envisaged such as the acceptance of same sex marriages and families.  In conclusion in the treatment of mental illness, Freud’s interpretation of dreams does help assess a patient’s state of mind. If a Patient dreams of flying like a bird then such a dream can be translated as the person being far away from reality.


Hamlin. (2010). Freud Interpretation of Dreams Summary. Retrieved on 7 July 2011, from:

Rand, N. & Torok, M. (1997). Questions for Freud: The secret history of psychoanalysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.