A silent epidemic of dream loss may be at the root of many of the illnesses attributed to sleep deprivation, say scientists, suggesting that the unrecognised public health hazard may contribute to depression, a study claims. Researchers detailed the various factors that cause rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and dream loss. Typical sleep follows a pattern in which deeper, non-REM sleep is prioritised by the body. Only later in the night and into the early morning do people experience dreaming, during REM sleep.
“We are at least as dream-deprived as we are sleep-deprived. Many of our health concerns attributed to sleep loss actually result from REM sleep deprivation,” said Rubin Naiman, assistant professor at University of Arizona in the US. He sees REM/dream loss as an unrecognised public health hazard that silently wreaks havoc by contributing to illness, depression and an erosion of consciousness.
The review, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, examines data about the causes and extent of REM/dream loss associated with medications, substance use disorders, sleep disorders and behavioural and lifestyle factors. Naiman further reviews the consequences of REM/dream loss and concludes with recommendations for restoring healthy REM sleep and dreaming.