The Architecture of Sleep and Functions of Dream


The Architecture of Sleep and Functions of Dream


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The Architecture of Sleep and Functions of Dream

How sleep changes during the course of one night

In a typical one night, there are five stages that take place during the course of sleep. The first stage is termed as drowsiness stage when the eyes appear to be closed but an arousal may make a person feel they have not slept (National Institute of Health, 2008). In the second stage, a period consisting of muscle relaxation and muscle tone mixture is exhibited. The body temperature and heart rate both reduce as the body makes preparations to embrace deep sleep (National Institute of Health, 2008).    Stages three and four takes place simultaneously although stage four involves high intensity activities and they are referred to as delta or slow wave sleep. During stage four, slow waves with high amplitudes are recorded in the electromyogram and this shows a rhythmic continuity and deep sleep pattern (National Institute of Health, 2008).   The stages 1-4 also represent the non rapid eye movement period of sleep and takes between 90 and 120 minutes (National Institute of Health, 2008).  . Stage five which is the last stage is known as the rapid eye movement sleep(REM sleep) and as the name suggests it involves sleeping while rapid eye movements occur. There is high cerebral activity during the rapid eye movement stage (National Institute of Health, 2008).

How the changes relate to the electrical activity of the brain changes

During the first stage, the theta waves which have high amplitudes and slow frequency as the body start preparing to sleep (National Institute of Health, 2008).   In stage two, there is continuation of theta waves although with the incorporation of abrupt increase frequency and wave amplitude episodes. Due to these waves, the brain is still being alert for other things happening around. In stages 3 and 4 the brain registers the delta waves which are the slowest waves of the brain and the highest in amplitude (National Institute of Health, 2008).  During these stages the brain electrical activity is high and the person enters deep sleep. In the last stage of sleep, the brain exhibits a mixture of desynchronous, beta, and alpha waves and there is also high brain electrical activity (National Institute of Health, 2008).

When dreams occur in the sleep cycle

The stage associated with dreams during the sleep cycle is the rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep) when there is mixture of brain waves working in tandem. Dreaming during this stage of the cycle is attributed to the high intensity of cerebral functions (National Institute of Health, 2008).

Differences in the types of dreams that occur at different times

It has been established that there are differences regarding the types of dreams experienced at different times. For instance the dreams that occur at night at the REM sleep stage are usually more intense and dreamers tend to believe in them than a dream experienced during the day during stages 3 or 4(National Institute of Health,2008).

The functions that Freud attributed to dreams

With regards to Freud, dreams function to facilitate the generation of repressed impulses and thoughts which induce neural activity excitation (Freud, 2001). Freud also considered dreams to function as ways of foreshadowing the future by making attributing meanings to dreams (Freud, 2001).

Functions of dream today according to researchers

According to researchers currently, one of the functions attributed to dreams concern repair of the body and mind (National Institute of Health,2008).   This observation takes place by considering that when the body is deprived of REM sleep, it will always attempt to recover by advancing dream sleep initially (National Institute of Health, 2008).  Dreams are also considered to help in learning by revitalizing different experiences. Lastly, some studies suggest that dreams help in the development of adaptive mechanisms to stressful conditions by reprogramming the mind for future events (National Institute of Health, 2008).


Freud, S., & Eder, M. D. (2001). On dreams. Mineola, N.Y: Dover.

National Institute of Health. (2008, February 6). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. : National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).  Retrieved May 11, 2014, from


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