However, the effects of dream deprivation vs sleep deprivation may have more far more drastic and far reaching consequences. According to an experiment conducted by Dement and Fischer (1959), whereby participants were either deprived of non REM sleep or REM sleep (dreaming), those that were woken up before the REM stage and restricted from dreaming throughout the night experienced signs of mental breakdown and clear psychotic episodes after just 4-5 nights. While the participants received the same amount of sleep and were woken the same number of times, it was the REM deprived subjects that displayed increased irritability, which eventuated in full-blown hallucinations.
Dement concluded that constant dream deprivation would result in 'catastrophic breakdown'.
This was also evident in the curious case of Peter Tripp (1959), a radio DJ who underwent 8 days of sleep and dream deprivation to raise funds for charity. Although he managed to break the world record, it came at an alarming price. After just 2 days, Tripp experienced minor hallucinations and by the sixth day, he was so paranoid and disoriented, he had no concept of who or where he was. By the eighth day, he was convinced that the doctor performing a routine check up was an undertaker who had come to bury him. After he finally passed out from sheer exhaustion, he slept for thirteen hours, yet experienced minor depression for months afterwards and his wife and close friends reported that he was never the same again (see video).
So the question arises: why is dreaming so important to our mental health and emotional wellbeing?
According to Dr Quattrocchi in 'Dreamwork Uncovered' (2005), it is our spirit that guides us during our dreams and helps to navigate us through our waking life:
'if we don't sleep and dream, we lose sight of our path and focus. Nothing in the physical world makes sense. It's like trying to walk without our spine'.
Quattrocchi also states that our dreams are where we research, rehearse, plan, communicate with others to work out the details of our daily lives...
'dreams become our lifeline home; without them, we're hopelessly lost'.
So it appears that even our most bizarre and confusing dreams may be our very own keepers of sanity!
Remember this during the party season, be sure to make time for sleep and don't forget to dream!
Happy holidays and happy dreaming!
Love The Dream Doctor xx
Secrets of Sleep - Sleep Deprivation: Peter Tripp
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Quattrocchi, Marina (2005). Dreamwork Uncovered. Insomniac Press, Canada
Cheung, Theresa (2006). The Element Encyclopedia of 20,000 Dreams: The ultimate A-Z to interpret the secrets of your dreams. Harper Collins, UK.