It surprises some people to know they actually have four or five dreams per night. But research has proven this is absolutely true.
Let’s start at the beginning. There are two distinct types of sleep phases. One has been given the unpretentious acronym, “REM”, for “rapid eye movement,” while the other is simply called NREM, for “non-rapid eye movement.” By studying volunteers in labs, researchers have been able to observe this very distinct “REM” action. Actually, this eye movement has been observed in animals as well.
These two phases of sleep (REM and NREM) follow each other throughout the course of the sleep cycle. The only difference is the increase in the duration of REM as the sleep cycle goes on. The cycle of NREM and REM repeats itself several times throughout the night (or sleep cycle). This repetition occurs at approximately ninety-minute intervals. So, as the night progresses, our dreams increase in length. On average, the first one begins at about ten minutes, increasing to anywhere between twenty and forty minutes in length. It is this last dream that most people remember.
To be more specific, during our wake cycle, we are in the Beta state, which is the state where our fastest brain waves occur. As we lie down to sleep and become drowsy, our brain waves begin to move more slowly.
Then, as we begin to drift into the Alpha wave pattern, we can actually feel ourselves moving in and out of reality. As our brain waves continue to slow down, we move rapidly from Alpha to Theta and finally to the Delta state. All this takes place in a matter of minutes.
Once we reach the Delta state for the first time of the night, an interesting thing happens. Our bodies become quite still and researchers have commented that from a distance, it looks as if we are watching something. This, of course, is indeed true. We are watching our own inner dramas, otherwise known as our dreams!
Many times we have serial dreams. That is, many dreams that surround the same theme. Since our dream recall usually only centers around our final dream, we only realize that we have had serial dreams after having them for several nights.
NEXT: Some interesting tidbits about dreams