Dreams and Neuroscience
Consciousness is understood to be a natural condition of the activated brain.
In dream meditation, consciousness is also activated and only recently has been recognized by scientists, but not studied yet. A lot of people around the world have developed insomnia, as a result, sleeping pills became really popular.
Buddhist meditation can be used to help people achieve peace of mind and good sleep as the result.
In Dream meditation, a practitioner can easily access and control the dreaming process.
Nowadays, sleep can be objectively measured. Scientists can measure three states: waking, sleeping, and dreaming.
Scientists found out that we never make fewer than 14 major body shifts during 6-8 hours of sleep. In one night, a person normally has four-five dream periods, each lasting 15-20 minutes. The circle lasts 90 minutes, with the first 60-70 minutes of non-dreaming, and the last 20 minutes of dreaming.
This suggests that the brain stem neuronal controls themselves constitute a clock, or that they observe an accurate clock, whereby they trigger activation of the dreaming state at regular intervals throughout sleep. This is an automatic, intrinsic process. It looks, therefore, as though this activation of the brain for dreaming purposes must be very important in some way.
Dreaming is really important, but why?
It is a mystery. Scientists still have not found the answer to this question.
So on average, a person spends two hours dreaming every night. The time of dreaming is decreasing with age. During the dream cycle the brain is activated, our muscles are paralyzed except for the eye muscles. Dreams are richly visual because the visual system is stimulated along with activation of the eye muscles.
The paradox is, the body is more relaxed in the dream state than in the non-dreaming state.
All mammals share the identical organization of alternating states of wakefulness, deep sleep, and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep (presumably dreaming) behavior.
There is no biological evidence when (if) the fetus starts dreaming. Dreaming is a phycological experience.
Another interesting fact is that the same group of neurons - the aminergic system, that support the waking state is also responsible for anxiety, and alertness.
At the same time, emotions such as love, attachment, and aggression are associated with another part of the brain. It means that the emotional system is farther forward in the lambic part of the forebrain.
We know the dreams are strange and in order to control them, Allan Hobson - an American psychiatrist and dream research, suggests to tell yourself before you’re going to sleep that the dreams are strange, therefore you know you are dreaming. You have to do it every night for about three weeks, for just a few seconds before going to sleep. It helps to have a journal at your bedside, so you can write down your sleep experiences.
You can train yourself to dream anything you want to dream about.
“Control of the regular cycles of sleeping, dreaming, and waking states are governed by reciprocal systems of neurotransmitters. Because of their role in controlling relaxation, these chemical systems may prove to play a role in meditation also.”
Where Buddhism Meets Neuroscience
By The Dalai Lama
Recommended Reading: Tibetan Dream Yoga