The Chemistry of Dreaming

Introduction

YouTube Video

  • What exactly is the chemistry of dreaming? It’s oneirology! Basically, dreams are ideas, emotions, images, and/or sensations during the sleeping process. These dreams are involuntary during the body’s rest. Scientists have proven evidence that along with humans, other mammals and even birds receive dreams. During the night, a person averages to have four to seven dreams a night. These dreams can last anywhere from a few seconds to twenty minutes long. Thus, 20% of our nightly sleeping stage contains dreams.

  • I chose to do my research project on dreaming due to its intriguing nature and its confusing contents. Due to my belief of a significant background of all dreams, I thought that it would be an ideal topic to study up on.

  • Everyone dreams. Whether or not we remember them, every time we doze off into a sleeping stage, dreams are present. Dreams have affected my life in a variety of ways. Because of dreams, I have learned how to cope with many issues I’ve had. I have also gained knowledge about how I feel about different people due to the visions of my dreams. I am certain that everyone has learned a thing or two from their dreams.

  • Picture of you and your ... (this doesn't need to be done today, but you will need a picture in about 2 weeks, so plan ahead!)

Composition of ...
  • Basically, Melatonin is a hormone made in your body by our pineal gland. (Located above the middle of the brain. It is no surprise that the nickname for this chemical is “the hormone of the night”. In the blood, melatonin levels are at their peak for 12 hours during the night. At about 9am, they go back to daytime levels. (Barely detectable) Melatonin is sold in stores all over the place to be used as a sleeping aid. In case workers are adjusting to a new schedule, this capsule can be very beneficial. This can also prolong the amount of REM dreaming stages one is in. Thus, the dreamer is more susceptible to remembering their dreams. However, by taking a higher dose of melatonin, one can experience more lucid dreams or nightmares. According to the Mayo Clinic’s experts, the most common side effects caused by taking Melatonin supplements are daytime sleepiness, dizziness, and headaches. Other side effects that may be problematic are abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion, and short-lasting feels of depression. The recommended dose is 3-5 milligrams.  

  • Known as the “hormone of love”, the oxytocin hormone is in charge for the social connections that sometimes present themselves in our dreams. During the REM process, Oxytocin is the hormone that causes the feelings we have in reality such as anxiety, passion, and other emotions. This is also true in our dreams.

  • The adenosine molecule flows through your bloodstream while you are awake and eventually makes you tired. Levels of this hormone are a huge factor in non-REM sleep. An enzyme called Adenosine Deaminase breaks down Adenosine molecules causing one to sleep. Adenosine levels drop as one continues to sleep.   

  • The rate of metabolism depends on the intensity and duration of sleep. Slow brain waves are present during sleep. Metabolism reduces adenosine levels. These levels reduce as sleep continues.


Background Research

  • Why do we dream? There are many theories on why we all dream. For example, some people say that we dream to practice responses to dangerous situations. Other theories say things such as dreams create wisdom, dreams are like psychotherapy, dreams have no meaning at all, or dreams are like restarting the “computer” or our brain. What they mean by restarting the computer is that when we sleep our hard drive maintains what is important and erases all of the nonsense.

  • Why do we forget so many of our dreams? When we wake up, or dreams burst apart quickly. Mental activity required for dreaming is very low. The brain is “working out” about the same amount as a drunk or drugged up person’s brain. Research shows that a five minute delay of waking someone up from their dream causes a less chance of them being able to remember their dream. If another five or ten minutes goes by, there is very little chance that the dreamer will remember their dream at all. However, if you awaken someone during REM sleep, there is a stronger chance that they will remember their dream. There is also research that states that if we have a lacking of a hormone called norepinephrine in the cerebral cortex of our brain, this can cause us to forget the dreams that we had when we were asleep.


Resources

  • "New Light on the Chemistry of Dreams." The New York Times. The New York Times, 28                                                                                  

Dec. 1987. Web. 9 May 2014.        <http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/29/science/new-light-on-the-chemistry-of-dreams.html>.

  • "Acetylcholine." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 9 May 2014.                     

<http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetylcholine>.

  • "Dreams and Healing - ASD  E-Study Groups - The Association for the Study of

Dreams."Dreams and Healing - ASD  E-Study Groups - The Association for the Study of Dreams. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. <http://www.asdreams.org/study/asd-DreamHealing.htm>.

  • "Chemistry of dreams known as oneirology." Chemistry of dreams known as oneirology.

N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. <http://www.slideshare.net/bejoybj/chemistry-of-dreams-known-as-oneirology>.

  • "Adult health." Melatonin side effects: What are the risks?. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2014.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/expert-answers/melatonin-side-effects/faq-20057874>.

  • Salamon, Maureen. "11 Interesting Effects of Oxytocin." LiveScience. TechMedia

Network, 3 Dec. 2010. Web. 9 May 2014. <http://www.livescience.com/35219-11-effects-of-oxytocin.html>.

  • "What Do Dreams Do for Us?." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a

Therapist. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-literary-mind/200911/why-do-we-dream>.




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