Back in 2000 as many as 10 million Poles reported having sleeping problems, 6.5 million of whom were women! A few years ago during the Science Festival I went to a lecture about sleep. I came in a bit late and it turned out that quite a big room was not only filled to its capacity with the audience standing and sitting on the floor, but it was even necessary to open the door so that people standing in the corridor could hear the lecture as well. Recently, I have decided to revise what I learned back then thinking that science made some progress in that field. If we are to believe Professor Google—it did not.
Clearly, we all need sleep, as has been proven by numerous experiments and sleep deprivation tortures. We sleep to let our brain rest and to prepare it for the activities of the next day. As to dreams… I’m not surprised that Freud searched for deeper meaning in them and considered them to be the “royal road to the unconscious”. Today we know that dreams can be joyful, sad, scary, absurd and rational..
I like this analogy that I once heard somewhere: I wake up with an elusive recollection of my last dream and I have an impression that my memory is like a giant blackboard, which someone is very quickly erasing and so the dream that was written there is gone.
Sometimes I know—and it’s always in the scary dreams–I’m being chased and I have nowhere to hide. After all both the hideaway and the bad guys are the creation of one and the same thing: my brain. I wake up and try not to fall asleep too fast because I know that dream might come back.
I have recurring dreams, too. This is where I have managed to develop my own landscapes, which usually consist of non-existent mountains and ski slopes. I can describe them in detail. Then there are also, as I call them, the “dreams about inability”: each time I want to go on a skiing trip, I can never find a vital piece of equipment: ski poles, ski boots or skis. I think it is no coincidence that skiing is what these two types of dreams have in common – since I liked it SO much, but don’t ski anymore.
While doing my Google research I finally typed the inevitable term: “dreams and genes”. And I got some results! “Dreams and Genes. Gala of Hope” was an event that took place in a town north of Los Angeles and was organised by an association helping children with cancer. Why “genes” in the event name, though? I’m not sure. There was also a book review—published in the Nature magazine—entitled “Genetic dreams and nightmares”, which described the consequences of detailed knowledge of human genes.
It is clearly too early for genetic understanding of dreams. And as to the psychiatrist’s advice, it goes like this: if you can’t sleep, sleep less.
Professor Magdalena Fikus, Ph.D.
Professor of molecular biology, lecturer at many prestigious universities and an outstanding science communicator. Co-founder and co-organiser of the Science Festival in Warsaw and – for many years – the Head of its Programme Board. Member of the EUSCEA, Head of the Council for the Promotion of the Public Understanding of Science PAS, and member of the Copernicus Science Centre’s Programme Board since the establishment of the CSC.
data publikacji: 16 marca 2016