Myths about Sleep and Dreaming

There are many myths about sleep and dreaming that a lot of people believe even today with all of the knowledge we have gained in the world of Psychology. I chose to research three common myths and find out more about why people believe these myths. The first myth I found interesting is the belief that everyone needs eight hours sleep. I think the reason I found this myth interesting is because I didn’t know that it was a myth. I thought it was true like most people do. The second myth I chose is the myth that dreaming of dying can be fatal. I have heard many times that if you die in your own dream you will actually die, but I didn’t think it was true. The last myth I researched is the belief that it is easy to learn hard lessons such as a foreign language while sleeping. This is also something I have always heard and thought about trying but never did. All three of these myths have been proven to be just that; myths.

My whole life I have heard that you should get a full eight hours sleep. However, the proven fact is that while the average amount of sleep people get is 7.6 hours a night, some people need as little as fifteen minutes of sleep. To the other extreme, some people need as much as eleven hours of sleep a night. These two extremes are sometimes called short-sleepers and long-sleepers. According to Michael Breus, Phd, D, ABSM, many factors play into how much sleep one needs. Some of these factors are your inherited genetic gene, your sleep hygiene, such as drinking coffee, smoking, or drinking alcohol daily. The quality of your sleep is another important factor in how much sleep you need nightly. If you sleep right through the night you may only need six hours of sleep to feel good but if you have to get up several times during the night or are just awakened a lot then you may need more sleep. You should wake up feeling pretty much refreshed and alert during the day if you are getting the correct amount of quality sleep you personally need.

For example, if I get about six solid hours of sleep I feel like getting up in the morning and I feel pretty good all day long. If I get woken up a couple times at night then I don’t feel like getting up at all the next day and feel tired all day.

I was very interested in finding out more about where the myth originated from that dreaming of dying can be fatal. There is no proven fact that dreaming of dying can cause a person to die. If a person has dreamed of dying and died during that dream, there is no way for anyone to know that they died while having a dream about dying. There is a connection between the part of our brain that controls vital life functions and with the dreaming part of our brain, therefore, contents of our dreams can set off the same reaction as we have when we are awake. If you have a nightmare, your body may react the same way as if something bad was happening to you when you are awake, but there is documentation showing that some people have had dreams of dying and lived to tell about it. For example, in an article in the San Diego Reader by Matthew Alice he states that a man named Tom Saladino wrote that he had had a few experiences of dreaming of himself dying and lived through each one. The truth is that many people have had nightmares and woke up right before expected death in the nightmare. If you are screaming and your arms are thrashing you are bound to wake up. The nightmares seem so real and intense that at some point it became a common belief that if you don’t wake up before you die in your dream then you are a goner in reality as well.

It is a commonly heard myth or belief that people can learn difficult lessons while asleep, such as a foreign language. The reality is that some studies show basic learning while sleeping, but nothing significant. Not much of the information is retained. A good study was done at the University of Arizona in the Bootzin Lab. Recordings were played to both sleeping volunteers and awake volunteers. Later, both of the groups were asked questions to see who remembered more of the words on the recordings. Direct and indirect memory tests were given to both groups. The group who learned while awake did much better than those who “learned” while sleeping. However, some studies do show that people can learn while sleeping, so perhaps it depends on the person and the stage of sleep whey are in.

These “myths” were very interesting to explore and research. There are so many different beliefs and studies on each myth. There are different findings and opinions everywhere. Sleep and dreaming is very mysterious and amazing. I suppose there is still much to be studied and experimented and tested. People have been talking about their dreams since time began, and it is something I am sure people will be discussing until the end of time.

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