Understanding And Using Dreams To Learn And To Forget


Key Takeaways

  • Sleep is broken up into 90-minute blocks called “ultradian rhythm”

  • Slow-wave (non-REM) sleep takes place earlier in the night

  • As sleep progresses throughout the night, REM sleep takes up more time

  • Things that happen in slow0wave sleep: motor learning, motor skill learning, details about specific events

  • Lack of REM sleep tends to make people emotionally irritable – we tend to catastrophize small things because we can’t unlearn the emotionality of events

  • The mechanisms of Ketamine and PCP bear striking resemblance to patterns of REM sleep and are sometimes used as therapeutics

  • “Sleep deprivation isn’t just deprivation of energy or deprivation of immune function, it’s deprivation of self-induced therapy every time we go to sleep.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman

  • New research highlights that it may be more important to get a consistent amount of sleep versus the hours of sleep each night

  • To improve sleep quality: limit fluids before bed, perform resistance exercise during the day to limit alcohol.

Overview Of Sleep Cycles: Ultradian Rhythm

  • Sleep is generally broken up into 90-minute cycles called the ultradian rhythm

  • Earlier in the night, we have more slow-wave sleep (non-REM) and less REM sleep

  • For every 90 minute cycle, REM occupies more time – the more sleep you get, the more REM you have

Neuromodulator Refresher

  • Acetylcholine: tends to modify and amplify brain circuits associated with attention and focus

  • Norepinephrine: tends to modify circuits associated with alertness and desire to move

  • Serotonin: released and modifies circuits associated with bliss and remaining still

  • Dopamine: released and associated with amplification of pursuing goals, pleasure, and reward

Lucid Dreams

  • Lucid dreaming: dreaming in sleep but being aware that you’re dreaming and, in some cases, directing the dream

  • Occurs in about 20% of people

  • Can cause people to not feel as rested and can disrupt sleep’s restorative effects

Slow Wave Sleep (Non-REM Sleep)

  • Characterized by brain activity in which the brain is metabolically active

  • No acetylcholine in non-REM state of sleep, meaning there’s no real focus

  • Active neuromodulators: norepinephrine, serotonin

  • If you are going to sleep walk, this is the cycle in which it would happen

  • Motor learning (e.g., learning a new dance, exercise, etc.) is most likely to take place in slow wave sleep

  • Slow wave sleep is also important in cognitive information – details, spelling, etc.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

  • REM sleep occurs more as the night of sleep progresses

  • The circuitry involved in conscious eye movement is active

  • We’re entirely laid out and paralyzed

  • Paralysis during sleep can spill into waking – this can even come with hallucinations – a lot of alien abduction recaps include both of these traits

  • Our experience is hallucinatory during this time

  • Serotonin and norepinephrine are absent

  • REM sleep is one of the few times in our life where norepinephrine is absent so there’s no chemical manifestation of fear and anxiety

  • This period of sleep allows us to review things that happened or troubling situations in the absence of fear and anxiety

  • Nightmares probably take place in slow-wave sleep

  • Lack of REM sleep tends to make people emotionally irritable – we tend to catastrophize small things because we can’t unlearn the emotionality of events

  • REM sleep solidifies associations and gives things meanings – with a lack of REM sleep, even simple things like the word “the” looks misspelled and distorted

  • REM sleep eliminates meanings that don’t matter so we don’t blow things out of proportion – we take events of the day and uncouple the expression of emotionality

  • “Sleep deprivation isn’t just deprivation of energy or deprivation of immune function, it’s deprivation of self-induced therapy every time we go to sleep.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman

REM Sleep, Trauma, Psychology

  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) EMDR: psychotherapy designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories

  • During EMDR, patients are guided to perform lateral eye movements mimicking REM sleep (therefore turning off norepinephrine), allowing patients to access traumatic events without the emotion

  • EMDR is most successful for single event trauma, like a car crash, robbery, etc. – not prolonged experiences like childhood abuse, divorce

Uses Of Ketamine & PCP To Mimic REM

  • The mechanisms of Ketamine and PCP bear striking resemblance to patterns of REM sleep

  • Ketamine and PCP both function to disrupt NMDA receptor in the brain

  • Ketamine prevents the learning of emotions soon after trauma

  • Ketamine is kept in some emergency rooms and sometimes administered to people who witness a loved one traumatically dying in front of them

  • Ketamine is about becoming removed from the emotion of an experience

Improving Sleep Quality

  • Getting a regular amount of sleep each night might be more important than the duration

  • Consistently getting the same amount of sleep is better than getting more hours some nights and fewer others

  • Limit drink a lot of fluid right before sleeping

  • Resistance exercise can induce a greater amount of slow-wave sleep involved in motor learning and acquisition of fine details

  • Alcohol hinders deep restorative sleep

 

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