Dream-deprived: Researcher describes ‘silent epidemic’ of dream loss

By Jeffrey Field
October 2, 2017

Dream deprivedIt’s no secret that most Americans don’t get enough sleep. Not doing enough dreaming may be a big part of the problem.

A sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine said sleep-related health problems may result from people not having enough rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep period when most dreams occur.

In his review, Dreamless: The Silent Epidemic of Dream Loss, Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., said he believes tens of millions of people experience significant REM/dream loss every night.

His review indicates that not sleeping well enough to dream can lead to depression, anxiety, obesity, increased inflammation and greater pain sensitivity. Dream disturbances have also been linked to a range of memory disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Naiman said the most common causes of dream loss are alcohol, marijuana, medications, sleep disorders and lifestyle factors – including using artificial lights at night and relying on an alarm clock to wake up in the morning.

alarm clock

Waking up to an alarm interrupts the body’s natural rhythms – and can cut your REM time short at the worst possible moments.

“Imagine being abruptly ushered out of a movie theater whenever a film is nearing its conclusion,” Naiman said.

His suggestions to help restore dreams include managing use of substances and medications. He also encourages optimizing sleep by dimming lights in the evening and not using electronic devices just before bed – or even once there. Using your cellphone for one last pre-sleep social media check might be chasing your dreams away.

Naiman said society should adjust its general view that dreams are trivial.

“Whether we believe dreams are personally meaningful or not, we must recognize they are healthful,” Naiman wrote.

Sleep is a big part of your overall health. The University of Kansas Health System's Integrative Medicine helps address many common problems with “lifestyle medicine.” Call our clinic at 913-588-6208 to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, nutritionists or nurse practitioner team members.

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