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Three Kinds of Dreaming

October 8, 2007 on 9:23 pm | In Dream Types | No Comments

Many people are unaware that there are three kinds of dreaming associated with sleep. Yet each kind of dreaming is interesting. Each is a necessary part of the sleep process. And each kind of dreaming can be valuable to dreamers.

Rapid-Eye-Movement Dreaming

When most people hear the word dreaming, they think of the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stage of sleep. That is the type of dreaming that has been most studied in laboratories.

REM sleep is easy to recognize by the fact that the sleeper’s eyes track back and forth as though watching movement. You can see the eyes move even through the closed eyelids of the sleeper. It is easy to awaken dreamers during REM dreams, and they generally can tell researchers what they were dreaming.

We spend about a third of each night in REM dreaming, in phases lasting half hour to an hour-and-a-half each. So there is a lot of time to dream. REM dreaming begins shortly after we fall asleep. REM dreams are the ones that we generally remember on waking. And REM sleep is what we generally think of when we think of dreaming.

Deep Dreaming in Theta Sleep

Few people realize that there is a deeper level of dreaming, in the state called theta sleep. Theta dreams are harder to recall, so they are harder for researchers to capture.

Since theta sleep is such a deep sleep level, we are less likely to awaken. Only delta sleep is deeper.

We very seldom remember theta state dreams. When we do, they tend to be vague feelings of movement rather than the often-brilliant visions of REM state.

Hypnogogic Imagery

Another type of dreaming, sometimes called hypnogogic imagery, is the image-rich reverie that occurs on the thresholds of sleep, while drifting off or awakening. At that time you may see quick glimpses of beautiful patterns or unfamiliar scenes and people. Occasionally you may have an abrupt sensation of falling.

Generally there is no sound with these dreams. They don’t usually form the elaborate stories that we often experience in REM dreaming. Yet this dreaming on the edge of sleep can carry valuable information, such as messages or solutions to problems.

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