The Stages of Sleep and Dreaming

Post a 200- to 300-word response to the following: Describe the stages of sleep. In which stage do we dream?

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When a person first shuts their eyes to go to sleep alpha waves begin to show up on the EEG (Pinel, 2007). These waves go up down in waves of 8 and 12 Hz bursts. As the person actually falls asleep they enter stage 1 of sleep EEG. In this stage, the waves remain high-frequency and low-voltage. Stage 2 of sleep EEG is characterized by sleep spindles, which include waxing and waning of 12 to 14 Hz waves. The negative side of this type of wave is called a K complex. The third stage entails occasional delta waves and an increase in voltage and a decrease in frequency. These delta waves are the slowest and largest of the EEG waves and have a frequency of between 1 to 2 Hz. When someone has reached stage 4, which is defined by predominant delta waves, they then retreat back to stage one again. At that point, they go through the cycle again. The only differences are that stage 1 of the second and subsequent cycles are characterized by the loss of core muscle tone and REM’s commences.

Dreaming can happen in both NREM and REM sleep; however, the greatest proportions of dreams take place in REM sleep during the second and subsequent 1st stage of sleep EEG. Furthermore, dreams taking place inside NREM sleep tend to be individual events; whereas, dreams taking place in REM sleep tend to be more elaborate.

What are the five common beliefs about dreaming?

  1. One belief is that external stimuli can be incorporated into a dream. In 14 out of 33 cases this was found to be so.
  2. Second is the belief that dreams happen in an instant rather than in real time; however, one study indicated that 92 out of 111 cases were able to readily identify the length of their dreams.
  3. The third is the belief that some people do not dream. This is untrue. These people simply cannot remember their dreams when they wake up; however, when these people are woken up in REM sleep they do remember fewer dreams than others.
  4. The fourth belief is that penile erections follow erotic dreams. This is untrue. Penile erections are a part of REM sleep.
  5. The last belief is that people who sleep walk and sleep talk do this while dreaming. This has been shown to be untrue. In fact, these types of sleep-related activities usually happen in stage 4 of sleep.

What are the two common theories about dreams? Which of the two theories do you agree with? Explain.

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The two types of theories dealing with dreams are Freud’s theory of dreams and the activation-synthesis theory. The Freudian theory of dreams centers around his understanding of latent and repressed sexual and aggressive feelings. In Freud’s view, these repressed feelings find an outlet in dreams; however, he also believes that dreams are heavily censored in order to make them bearable. These dreams are called manifest dreams. He believed that it was the real dreams masked by the manifest dreams which tell the real story of the inner turmoil of a person. Second is the activation-synthesis theory of dreams. This theory explains that dreams are the cortex’s way of making sense of the random neural signals coming from the brain stem, which bombard the cortex during REM sleep. This theory does not, however, espouse that dreams do not have meaning, but rather that the meaning of dreams has to do with the storyline that the cortex attaches to the random signals in order to make sense of them.

I would have to say that I relate better to the activation-synthesis theory. There is much more scientific evidence for this type of theory. Additionally, it lines up better with my subjective experience of dreams. In dreams, it seems like some things are completely random and others are very meaningful.


Pinel, J. P. J. (2007). Basics of biopsychology. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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