The Science of Dreams

Dreams are an amazing and wonderful enigma.  Dreams are a universal occurrence, and not one human being is excluded from this experience.  But what are dreams? Dreaming is a state of consciousness portrayed by emotional, cognitive, and sensory occurrences when we sleep.  Dreams are fascinating stories that take place in the landscape of our mind that can conjure an infinite amount of characters and settings that mostly deal with our subconscious. It is believed that the average person dreams anywhere from 3 to 6 times per night, although we might not be able to recall what we dreamed about the night before, mostly because 95% of dreams are forgotten by the time you physically get out of bed.  
  
  
There are five stages of sleep that determine the quantity and quality of your dreams.

1) The first stage is a very light sleep where muscle and eye movement slow down.  This constitutes about 4-5% of total sleep.  You are easily awoken in this stage.

2) The second stage accounts for most of the total sleep you receive, which is 45-55%.  Your body temperature drops and your heart rate slows, preparing you for the next two stages of deep sleep.

3) The third stage is the first part of the deep sleep stage.  In this state, less than 50% of your brain waves are delta waves, which are high amplitude brain waves that cause you to fall into deep sleep.  This stage represents 4-6% of a sleep cycle.

4) The fourth stage is the second part of the deep sleep cycle, where your brain is producing more than 50% of delta waves.  This is the hardest stage of sleep to be awakened from.  If you are aroused, it usually takes a couple of minutes to get your bearings, and you normally are groggy and disoriented. 12-15% of your total sleep is derived from this stage.

5) The final stage is the REM cycle.  REM sleep, or rapid eye movement, is characterized by your eyes moving rapidly, with an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Paralysis of the limbs also occurs in this stage.  While this may seem terrifying, it is to keep your body from acting out dreams in the middle of the night.  This can also result in sleep paralysis, when you awaken from dreaming and you cannot move your body.  The REM stage accounts for 20-25% of your total sleep, and it is where you dream more vivid, bizarre, and fantastical dreams than any other stage.

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