psychology of sleep


A human brain has around 86 billion neurons, and the communication between these neurons are constant. The sheer scale of these interactions mean a computer (an EEG) can register this electrical activity, with different frequencies indicating different mental states.


Why do we dream?

In the 3rd millennium BCE, Mesopotamian kings recorded and interpreted their dreams on wax tablets. In the years since, we haven’t paused in our quest to understand why we dream. And while we still don’t have any definitive answers, we have some theories. Here are seven reasons we might dream.

1. In the early 1900’s, Sigmund Freud proposed that while all of our dreams, including our nightmares, are a collection of images from our daily conscious lives, they also have symbolic meanings which relate to the fulfillment of our subconscious wishes.  Freud theorized that everything we remember when we wake up from a dream is a symbolic representation of our unconscious, primitive thoughts, urges and desires. Freud believed that by analyzing those remembered elements, the unconscious content would be revealed to our conscious mind, and psychological issues stemming from its repression could be addressed and resolved.

2. To increase performance on certain mental tasks, sleep is good, but dreaming while sleeping is better.  In 2010, researchers found that subjects were much better at getting through a complex 3D maze if they had napped and dreamed of the maze prior to their second attempt. In fact, they were up to ten times better at it than those who only thought of the maze while awake between attempts, and those who napped but did not dream about the maze. Researchers theorize that certain memory processes can happen only when we are asleep, and our dreams are a signal that these processes are taking place.

3. There are about ten thousand trillion neural connections within the architecture of your brain. They are created by everything you think, and everything you do.  A 1983 neurobiological theory of dreaming, called “reverse learning,” holds that while sleeping, and mainly during REM sleep cycles, your neocortex reviews these neural connections and dumps the unnecessary ones. Without this unlearning process, which results in your dreams, your brain could be overrun by useless connections, and parasitic thoughts could disrupt the necessary thinking you need to do while you’re awake.    

4. The “Continual Activation Theory” proposes that your dreams result from your brain’s need to constantly consolidate and create long term memories in order to function properly. So when external input falls below a certain level, like when you’re asleep, your brain automatically triggers the generation of data from its memory storages, which appear to you in the form of the thoughts and feelings you experience in your dreams. In other words, your dreams might be a random screensaver your brain turns on so it doesn’t completely shut down.   

5. Dreams involving dangerous and threatening situations are very common, and the Primitive Instinct Rehearsal Theory holds that the content of a dream is significant to its purpose.  Whether it’s an anxiety filled night of being chased through the woods by a bear, or fighting off a ninja in a dark alley, these dreams allow you to practice your fight or flight instincts and keep them sharp and dependable, in case you’ll need them in real life. But it doesn’t always have to be unpleasant; for instance, dreams about your attractive neighbor could actually give your reproductive instinct some practice too.

6. Stress neurotransmitters in the brain are much less active during the REM stage of sleep, even during dreams of traumatic experiences, leading some researchers to theorize that one purpose of dreaming is to take the edge off painful experiences to allow for psychological healing. Reviewing traumatic events in your dreams with less mental stress may grant you a clearer perspective and an enhanced ability to process them in psychologically healthy ways. People with certain mood disorders and PTSD often have difficulty sleeping, leading some scientists to believe that lack of dreaming may be a contributing factor to their illnesses.   

7. Unconstrained by reality and the rules of conventional logic, in your dreams your mind can create limitless scenarios to help you grasp problems and formulate solutions that you may not consider while awake. John Steinbeck called it “the Committee of Sleep” and research has demonstrated the effectiveness of dreaming on problem solving. It’s also how renowned chemist August Kekule discovered the structure of the benzene molecule, and it’s the reason that sometimes the best solution for a problem is to “sleep on it”.

And those are just a few of the more prominent theories. As technology increases our capability for understanding the brain, it’s possible that one day we will discover the definitive reason for them; but until that time arrives, we’ll just have to keep on dreaming.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do we dream? - Amy Adkins

Animation by @clamanne
The Purpose of Sleep: To forget, Scientists say  sleep may help the brain prune back unneeded synapses.
By Carl Zimmer

A PET scan of a brain during normal sleep.

by Carl Zimmer

Over the years, scientists have come up with a lot of ideas about why we sleep.

Some have argued that it’s a way to save energy. Others have suggested that slumber provides an opportunity to clear away the brain’s cellular waste. Still others have proposed that sleep simply forces animals to lie still, letting them hide from predators.

A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.

In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks.

In 2003, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that synapses grew so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits got “noisy.” When we sleep, the scientists argued, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.

In the years since, Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli, along with other researchers, have found a great deal of indirect evidence to support the so-called synaptic homeostasis hypothesis.

(excerpt - click the link for the complete article) 

It turns out that there’s actually a scientific reason behind why people don’t sleep soundly in an unfamiliar place. 

 According to a study conducted by Brown University, the first night that you sleep in a new environment the left hemisphere of the brain stays alert while the right hemisphere rests. The biological trait is thought to have allowed early humans to respond to nighttime threats. “When we’re sleeping in a new environment and we don’t know how many predators are around, it would make sense to keep half the brain more alert and more responsive to bumps in the night,” said Niels Rattenborg, who led the study. 

The evolutionary advantage this brain traits provides is probably less useful to modern humans — making us experience less restful sleep when we spend the night at a hotel or friend’s house, for example — but in the animal kingdom, this trait still helps marine mammals such as dolphins, whales, and seals respond to threats during their slumber.

Snape character analysis

I love doing character analysis

I get so mad when people say ‘Oh even because he had a shitty childhood gives him no reason to be a complete ass’ well, it gives him perfectly good reason to be one. Let me tell you why…

Some people are more vulnerable to be psychologically traumatized by a bad childhood than others. Snape was one of them and you may say ‘but what if it wasn’t his childhood that made him an ass? ‘ Well, shit dude I don’t know what else I mean that’s all info we get in the books/movies about him.

Snape had a very shitty time growing up at home and at school he was bullied and abused. He didn’t have any support at that time (his mom didn’t seem to give him any affection whatsoever).  The only person who did give him even the slightest bit of attention was Lily and even she seemed to be somewhat of a distant character towards him. It’s saddening, for me, to think that Snape seeks comfort from someone who just acted nice towards him. Remember that Remus and Sirius all said how nice Lily was, how do we know she even gave Snape special treatment? What if she just treated him like a human being and that meant so much to him that he fell in love with her, just because she treated him as a human being. Can you imagine how horrible his life must have been for him that even those small acts of kindness Lily gave him meant so much to him? Lily was his safe haven when nobody else was there. When he was begging for affection she was the only one willing to give it to him and it meant so much to him that he devoted his entire life for her even after her death.

Also the fact that Snape distances himself emotionally from others is completely understandable. When you’ve experienced so much pain and disappointment from others you are quite likely to be distant from people to prevent yourself getting hurt more.  This can also explain his odd sense of humour, as well as his fondness of venting his anger on innocent students. I think these are all unhealthy coping mechanisms he’s using to deal with his troubled past. Maybe, it’s because he was also bullied in his youth that caused him to bully students.

Also, Snape was most likely never taught as a child how to deal with anger and pain, because (duh) his parents didn’t teach him, because they were abusive assholes too. He might have learned how to be an ass from them! And anyone who has learned a habit can tell you it’s hard to break it. Some are able to do it, but they are likely to be mentally and emotionally strong enough to do it. Snape, on the other hand, was not. That’s why it’s hard for him to not do the shit he does and say.

Also not just his childhood caused this assholeness of his but also his teen years where he was (from the book) rejected from Lily as well, so honestly he’s been through some pretty rough waters. It pains me to read how insensitive and uninformed some people are when they think about Snape. He went through extreme psychological trauma as a child and it caused him to become a mentally unhealthy person. You cannot say his actions are totally unjustifiable, but reject his rough childhood/teens as a cause of it. I expect you to be the same person to tell someone who suffers from anxiety or depression to snap out of it? You are being hypocritical to the extreme.

But, then again I cannot blame you for thinking that way. Snape was portrayed from the start as an ass. So obviously that 1st impression stayed with you which is how we operate. We remember people based on our 1st encounter with them. So people who hate on Snape may be so, because they remember he was an ass from the start so he stays an ass no matter what good he did in the end. Other’s look past that and realize that even a bad person can be good.

anonymous asked:

I'm writing a story and the main character goes through a traumatic event and has ptsd once home, and among other things can barely sleep due to nightmares. So there's a scene where her close friend/future love interest offers to share his bed and she sleeps better due to being able to sense the presence of someone she trusts when she wakes from a nightmare. Any tips for how I can write this so it's not coming off like he's curing her?

This is really difficult under these circumstances. However, there might be a few different things you can do to keep from falling into this trope:

  • Make it clear that her nightmares were going away on their own, regardless of the presence of the other character.

  • Have the relief from nightmares be intermittent - sometimes sleeping next to the other character will help; other times it has no effect or even makes it worse.

  • Have sleeping with someone nearby as a pre-established thing that makes the character more comfortable, dating back before the trauma occurred.

  • Since the other character’s a future love interest, have the main character ask them to sleep next to them because of a desire for intimacy and an expression of support, not necessarily because it relieves the nightmares.

The Shrink would like to note that while sleeping next to someone may help some people with PTSD in real life, I’m specifically discussing avoiding the media trope of “true love cures mental illness,” which is what anon asked about.

ID #60492

Name: Candace
Age: 16
Country: Canada

hello friends! my name’s candace but many people call me candy. it crossed my mind for the first time a few minutes ago that i should find a penpal, not only because it’s incredibly cute but also because i’d love to find new friends! i really love the idea of getting snail mail from someone on the other side of the world! anyways, here’s some stuff about me:

one; i love music. my first instrument was the piano, and now i teach it to lil kids as a part-time job :) my main love is singing though, and the ukulele! i also love the guitar, but i’m terrible at it. i also listen to ALL genres–no kidding, my music library must have 10000+ songs. so if you love music and want super cool and obscure music recs OR you have a super cool and obscure music taste i’d love to get to know you !

two; i love books + movies. my favourite books are harry potter, to kill a mockingbird, flowers for algernon, the outsiders, and the kite runner (but i enjoy a variety of books). my favourite movie is it’s a wonderful life and pretty much anything with audrey hepburn!!! as you can probably tell i like the classics, but i also like new stuff, too! i try to be as unpretentious as possible i swear ;)

three; i’m nice and sweet and if i grow attached to you i will probably never let u go >:) nah but honestly i’m very caring and i love giving and receiving advice. even though i can be very cheerful and sweet, i often come off as a little shy and distant. i’ve had a pretty rough year mental health-wise but i’m definitely recovering! so if you have mental health issues or just want somebody to talk to when you’re sad i’m your girl.

four; like i said, i love reading. i also love writing, photography, my friends and family, spring, sleep, watching tv, and volunteering/doing stuff other than staying home or going to school (although i do this the most :P) right now i’m thinking of majoring in psych and eng @ uoft but i still have two years of high school before i have to figure it out! i don’t particularly like high school but i don’t particularly hate it either. but it’d be nice to know someone outside my little bubble.

other little things about me include my love for cheesecake; my desire to travel; my favourite stores (chapters or other small bookshops or record shops or coffee shops!); my favourite food other than cheesecake (pho and poutine); my favourite tv shows (friends, gilmore girls, merlin, brooklyn nine nine); my favourite places (london, amsterdam, wwohp, my room); and my favourite genres of music (jazz, indie rock, indie folk, alternative, jazz hip-hop).

this summer i will be going to vietnam for a month so if you’re from there PLS TALK TO ME my vietnamese is crap.

okay i think that’s all! thank you for reading this massive wall of text :)

p.s. how do you find will smith in the snow? you look for fresh prints

hehe hope you liked the joke if you didn’t please pretend you never saw that

Preferences: if you think we could be friends please talk to me ! i love talking to younger kids and also older kids and also old people in general. adults are kind of gross but if you’re cool then i’ll allow it :) jk adults are cool too. oh and if you’re around my age (15-19) thats nice too! *checks to see if i’ve covered all the age groups* oh ya any babes can contact me too ;) (…sorry)