One final point about REM sleep and dreaming: what do we know about it? Well at the purely subjective level we know that dreams can (as it appears once we are awake) at one and the same time, be fairly normal and ordinary or utterly fantastic and even quite bizarre. In the course of one night we can find ourselves in different eras, far off places and occupying roles (sometimes several in the one night) which bears no relation to this or as far as we know, any other part of our existence, at least in this life. Then, in the morning when the rational mind attempts to impose its own particular brand of logic and order upon them, more often than maybe, they quite simply “dissolve” ‘like snow off a dyke’. As already stated, dreams can and do occur outwith REM sleep. However since as much as 80% of REM sleep appears to be taken up with dreaming, the two have in practice, become inseparably linked.
But to return to our basic question about the function of dreaming: does it have a supportive and health-giving role and function to play out? Yet again, this subject matter is way beyond the scope of these letters, as well as that of your correspondent. Nevertheless certain relevant pertinent and interesting points can be proffered. We know for example that several members of that family of drugs known as the benzodiazepines have been reported to not only inhibit “slow wave” sleep but also to suppress REM sleep. This is the reason why sudden benzodiazepine withdrawal may very well precipitate the onset of vivid dreaming and hallucination, even to the point in some cases of ‘spilling’ over into wakefulness; i.e. the brain is involuntarily seeking to restore, i.e. catch up with REM sleep. This would hardly be the case if dreaming had no part to play in the brain’s imposition of overall regulation and control. (C)SB.