Anyone who has ever been an entrepreneur, student, or child has heard the phrase “follow your dreams.” We all know how important it is in life to have aspirations, goals, and a guiding North Star. But did you know that dreams play a crucial role in social, emotional, and psychological health? In honor of Kislev, the Hebrew month of dreams according to the Jewish Calendar, we bring you a look at just how important dreams are for your health, especially lucid dreams.
The Sleep Cycle
Sleep is divided into four stages that cycle throughout the night (Patel 2022 ):
- – Awake: The drowsy stage of consciousness in between the onset of sleep and wakefulness. Heart rate and breathing begin to slow down.
- – Light: Heart rate and breathing begin to slow even further, and you enter a deeper stage of relaxation as your body’s sympathetic nervous system begins to disengage. Dreams are short and trivial. Your brain produces high theta brainwaves with the occasional sleep spindle (Fernandez 2020 ).
- – Deep: Heart rate and breathing at their slowest rate, and body is in the deepest state of relaxation. Your endocrine system secretes hormones supporting organ, tissue, and cell regeneration and growth, your immune system secretes anti-inflammatory cytokines, and your brain’s glymphatic system flushes out toxins. Dreams are more vivid and expansive. Your brain produces high delta brainwaves (Walker 2009 ).
- – REM: Heart rate and breathing increase, and brain activity increases, characterized by high-frequency beta and gamma brainwaves with brain activity similar to waking states (Siclari 2017 ). Dreams are deeply immersive and interactive, and lucid dreams happen during this phase. Rapid eye movement and limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed to prevent acting out dreams.
The importance of slow-wave deep sleep to brain health has been well researched and published by leading experts such as Dr. Matthew Walker and Dr. Andrew Huberman, but research into the importance of dreams to social, emotional, and psychological health is becoming more prominent from leading institutions such as Harvard Medical School and Stanford Medical School that have opened divisions of sleep medicine.
We dream in all stages of sleep, but it’s the vivid, bizarre, and especially lucid dreams of the REM stage of sleep that are most memorable and impactful to our social, emotional, and psychological health.
What Happens When We Dream
- Dreams that occur during the light stage of sleep are early onset after we have fallen asleep. They are episodic, fragmentary, and often confusing. Dreams that occur during the deep stage of sleep are later onset in the sleep cycle and tend to be more thought-like and logical. It is the dreams that occur during the REM stage that are vivid, non-logical, and hallucinatory in nature (Hobson 2012 ).
Beta-Carbolines are believed to play an important role in the sleep cycle of dreams, as they are structurally similar to melatonin and serotonin, and also produced endogenously in the brain’s pineal gland (Callaway 1988 ). In his seminal paper on the neurobiology of dream sleep, noted psychedelic ethnopharmacology researcher J.C. Callaway postulated that dreams are the result of the pineal gland’s melatonin / serotonin cycle corresponding with the natural sleep cycle:
- – Serotonin production decreases and melatonin production increases during the sleep cycle. β-Carbolines and other tryptamines, such as DMT are produced endogenously from the amino acid tryptophan.
- – Higher levels of β-Carbolines and tryptamines in the brain advance the dream state as you reach a deeper level of sleep and eventually REM, with progressively more vivid and hallucinatory dreams to the peak of lucid dreaming.
- – Serotonin production subsequently increases and melatonin production decreases as you begin to cycle towards a waking state.
The melatonin / serotonin sleep cycle corresponds with the cholinergic / aminergic sleep cycle of our neurons. As our brain produces melatonin and we move towards deeper stages of sleep / lucid dreams, our brain’s aminergic gates that are responsible for sensation become inhibited and cholinergic gates that are responsible for perception become augmented. As our brain produces serotonin and we move towards lighter stages of sleep / waking, our brain’s cholinergic gates that are responsible for perception become inhibited and aminergic gates that are responsible for sensation become augmented.
Psychology of Lucid Dreams
Research from Harvard Medical School’s division of sleep medicine has suggested that the brain is more than just an organ, but a virtual reality generator – the source of perception, behavior, and sensation that we experience. In a waking state, our brain is constantly reinforcing its beliefs and predictions (i.e. priors) with sensorial information from the external world. In a dreaming state, our brain is able to perceive emotions in the absence of physical sensations. By bypassing our waking need to correct / filter sensorial information to match our priors, our brains are able to form new beliefs and predictions (Hobson 2012 ).
The formation of new beliefs and predictions from dream insight is especially powerful during lucid dreaming, when the dreamer is aware of the dream state and can exert greater agency if not even control over the dream environment. Most importantly of lucid dreams, memory recall is higher in the waking state for the dreamer to be able to integrate these dream insights .
In short, our brain uses dreams to optimize its generative model of the world during wakefulness, and lucid dreams during the REM cycle are most impactful.
Translational Neuroscience: Lucid Dreams
During the REM sleep cycle, heart rate and breathing increase, and brain activity increases as characterized by high frequency beta and gamma brainwaves. The body is motionless, with rapid eye movement and limb muscles temporarily paralyzed to prevent acting out dreams; but the brain is in an activity state that is almost as high as waking (Voss 2009 )
REM sleep elicits the brain’s virtual reality system. Despite the absence of retinal input from the visual cortex, lucid dreams in the REM state are especially immersive, interactive, and perceptual. As Leonardo da Vinci asked: “Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than it does when we are awake?”
While it is not known whether high beta and gamma brainwaves are the cause or effect of lucid dreams during REM sleep, it is agreed by the scientific community that high frequency beta and gamma brainwaves are correlated with vivid and lucid dreams. We formulated Mang Lucid Dream Aid not only to provide a precise dosage of β-Carbolines to modulate the REM stage of the sleep cycle, but also to promote an increased level of beta and gamma frequency brainwaves during the REM sleep stage in support of lucid dreaming.
Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure a subject’s brainwaves during sleep, the below graph compares the power distribution by brainwave frequency during the 1st onset of the REM sleep cycle (as measured by a wearable sleep tracker), before supplementation with Mang Lucid Dream Aid (left) and after five days of supplementation with Mang Lucid Dream Aid (right).
Brainwave Activity during the 1st REM Sleep Cycle Onset
Left: Prior to Mang Lucid Dream Aid | Right: After 5 Days with Mang Lucid Dream Aid
A higher level of high frequency beta and gamma brainwaves does not guarantee lucid dreams or even vivid dreams. Dream lucidity varies from person to person and some highly creative individuals who are blessed with a naturally high capacity to produce DMT in their brains endogenously, such as origin of life researcher Dr. Bruce Damer, will experience a high level of REM sleep and lucid dreams nightly. This blessing can also be a curse, as high-frequency brainwave REM sleep often comes at the expense of slow-wave deep sleep, meaning that such individuals are trading off neurophysiological recovery and growth during sleep for lucid dream insight.
Dreams, especially lucid REM dreams, are critical to social, emotional, and psychological growth. For curious and conscious individuals seeking a way to augment insights from their waking state with insights from their sleeping state, we created Mang Lucid Dream Aid to help augment high-frequency beta and gamma brainwaves during the REM sleep stage in support of lucid dreams. During this month of Kislev, we wish you the discovery of insight, gratitude, and health during your nightly journeys.
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