Americans don’t dream anymore: Expert claims lack of sleep is affecting our physical and mental health

It’s not just kids who need a decent amount of sleep each night. To be able to function well at school or work, adults need to sleep deep enough to dream, according to an article from the Daily Mail.

Each night, we go through the fours stages of sleep. This occurs several times, and the bulk of our dreaming occurs during the “rapid-eye movement” (REM) phase. REM is the fourth stage, and missing out on enough sleep could spell the difference between getting enough rest and being tired and cranky the next day. (Related: Effects of Sleep Deprivation.)

Studies show that the physical and mental health of the average American is suffering due to a lack of sleep and dreams. The results of the study from the University of Arizona have identified several concerns that often go unnoticed since dreaming-sleep is nestled between psychology and sleep-science.

The REM cycle, which is the stage of sleep when our most active dream lives occur, was initially believed to be “the most deeply restful phase of sleep.” However, findings from contemporary research say that non-REM sleep, the stage before REM sleep, is the most restful phase.

Dr. Rubin Naiman, a sleep and dream psychologist from the university, claims that we need both. Since sleep and dreaming are analogous to our basic needs, it’s no use asking which is more important because, like food and water, we need both REM and non-REM sleep.

Dr. Naiman said, “We can actually go without food for weeks and weeks, but without water for only a few days. The brain prioritizes deep sleep over REM sleep, and if someone is sleep deprived they will dive into deep sleep to catch up.” He added that we need both to stay healthy.

It’s not just the lack of sleep that can cause health concerns like “greater risks of inflammation, pain sensitivity, obesity and memory problems” such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Without REM sleep, one’s physical and mental health can suffer greatly. Studies have revealed the link between Alzheimer’s and REM sleep, which can be seen in individuals who have difficulty entering the dreaming phase of sleep. This means that they have a bigger chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

If sleep is regularly interrupted, the chemical called soluble beta-amyloid might build up. This chemical can interfere with cognition and worse, kill brain cells. Soluble beta-amyloid in the brain is one of the first warning signs for the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Naiman is concerned because his colleagues don’t believe that dreams are important. He also shared that REM sleep is where memory consolidation takes place and that dreams could be a part of this process. For years, there has been a strong correlation between damaged dreaming and memory loss, shared Dr. Naiman. He stated, “when we don’t dream well, we don’t remember well.”

The link between depression and dreamless sleep has also been documented. In REM sleep, the brain’s paralimbic system, which deals with emotional information processing and other functions, is more active and suppresses the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that deals with executive functions. The pattern only occurs in REM sleep, and research proves that the brain also processes the consolidation of negative emotional memories.

Drinking alcohol and taking marijuana and sleeping pills also disrupt sleep and dreams. Dr. Naiman advises that one glass of wine after dinner is preferable to binge-drinking at night.

He adds that while some people take marijuana to sleep better, the drug can even cause a “disruptive rush.” To combat interrupted sleep and dreams, Dr. Naiman suggests “effective combinations of exercise, morning light and nutrients with vitamin D” to eliminate the need for sleep disruptions like alcohol, alarm clocks, and drugs.

Tips for getting enough sleep at night

But what do you do if Dr. Naiman’s suggestions don’t work for you? Here are additional healthy sleep habits you can practice to ensure that you get enough Zs at night:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
  • Start a relaxing bedtime ritual like reading or meditating.
  • Don’t nap in the afternoon.
  • Sleep on comfy pillows and mattresses.

Read more news about Alzheimer’s and helpful health practices at

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