Changing the world one dream at a time

Everybody sleeps at night. Everybody dreams. And some people recall their dreams. But what is actually happening during dreamtime? And how does this mysterious phenomena impact our daily lives? To get a grasp on the subject, it's important to understand the science of sleep. 

During a typical night's rest, people go through four to five 90-minute sleep cycles, and each cycle consists of four individual stages of sleep. An easy way to ensure waking up refreshed is to try to wake up at the end of a cycle, not in the middle. For example, getting 6, 7.5, or 9 hours of sleep would each be at the end of a cycle.

Stage 1

The body begins to relax, drowsiness develops, and sleep is easily disrupted, causing you to awaken. Muscles begin to relax, and brain wave activity begins to differ from that of a waking state.

Stage 2

The body and mind slow down even more, preparing for a deeper sleep.

Stages 3 & 4

This is the realm of deep sleep, when your body shuts down and the restoration process takes place. Delta and slow-oscillation waves begin to delete and encode memory.

Stage 5

This is the start of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Brain activity returns to near-wakefulness levels, and vivid dreaming occurs. Despite increased breathing and heart rate, most muscles are paralyzed to prevent the legs and arms from flailing in response to awareness and the dream experience. The majority of REM sleep takes place during the second half of the night.

It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.

John Steinbeck

Getting the Right Amount of Sleep

Sleep and regular sleep-wake cycles are critical in regulating the development of various hormones and getting enough deep sleep is critical for maximizing strength training gains and regenerating cells to repair tissue and bone, as well as stimulating blood flow to muscles for recovery. In fact, deep sleep is responsible for the production of 95 percent of growth hormone.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that teenagers get 8–10 hours of sleep per night, 7–9 hours for adults (18–64), and 7–8 hours for older adults (65+).

Studies show that sleeping less than 6 hours a night increases mortality and health outcomes such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and obesity.

On the other hand, sleep duration of over 9 hours has been correlated with more significant mortality and increased mortality, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, stroke, coronary heart disease, and obesity

Overall, consensus assessments of over a thousand scientific articles have revealed that the sweet spot for most people is ideally between 7 and 7.5 hours.

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.


Sleep & Learning

As we go about our day, we constantly experience and adapt to the world around us, learning and growing. Our experiences continually shape our worldview, and our brains are continuously changing as a result.

Research suggests that sleep helps learning and memory in two distinct ways. First, a sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Second, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information.

New events become electrical impulses that spread through the hippocampus's neural networks, an area of the brain responsible for the formation of new memories. These impulses, or new memories, change synaptic connections, making some more potent and others weaker.

For something to become a memory, three functions must occur:

1. Acquisition

The process of learning or experiencing something new.

2. Consolidation

The process by which a memory becomes stable in the brain.

3. Memory Recall

The ability to retrieve information from memory in the future.

With everything comes balance, and neuroplasticity is no exception. Sleep provides the brain with the time it needs to integrate and sort things out.

It is unsustainable for neurons to fire continuously throughout the day without being down-regulated. When we sleep, important memories are consolidated into existing networks and moved to the cortex for longer-term storage, where they can be found when we need them.

african american girl drawing on chalkboard

Neurons oscillate between a depolarized on-state when they fire and a hyperpolarized off-state when they are silent during deep non-REM sleep. A recent study found that opposing brain waves known as delta and slow-oscillation serve two distinct functions during this down-regulation. Delta waves inhibit memory formation, while slow-oscillation waves do the encoding.

A recent study found that language learning can be enhanced during slow-oscillation wave periods. The study showed that at the peak of these slow-oscillation waves, word associations are registered and encoded. On the other hand, research has shown that delta waves proliferate in brains with amyloid plaque buildup, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

When awake, learning occurs. When asleep, sorting and processing occur based on relevance and future expectations of usefulness so that essential memories are easier to retrieve for future use.

The brain has a more difficult time absorbing and recalling new information when it lacks adequate sleep. According to research, better sleep quality, duration, and consistency are all linked to higher academic performance.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Elanor Roosevelt


Dreams are most common during REM sleep, but they can occur at any stage of sleep. Non-REM and REM sleep dreams, on the other hand, appear to follow different patterns.

REM dreams are more imaginative, immersive, and nonsensical, enhancing the integration of unassociated information for creative problem-solving.

This fluid interpretation is at the heart of a creative mind while dreaming; working without rules to create and imagine the unimaginable. In fact, many of the world's most significant inventions and discoveries were inspired by ideas and inspirations that came to them in their dreams.

In 1619, a young soldier stationed in Germany had three dreams involving spirits, including an evil spirit and the holy spirit. That soldier was Rene Descartes, and those dreams gave rise to dualism.

In 1845, Elias Howe invented the sewing machine. He had been thinking about making a device with a needle that would go through cloth, and he had a dream that provided some newfound inspiration. In his dream, Elias was surrounded by cannibals who were about to be cooked and eaten. While observing them dance around a fire with spears moving up and down, he noticed a hole at the tops. When he awoke, he realized that a hole in the needle close to the point, rather than the other end, provided the solution he was looking for, making the mechanical sewing machine a technological possibility.

In 1953, a young molecular biologist had a dream involving a spiral. That spiral served as an inspiration for the discovery of DNA's double-helix structure. Imagination and creativity are inextricably linked, and human progress is directly proportional to both.

🌍 World Changing Dreams 🌍

1. DNA

Dr. James Watson saw a spiral staircase leading to the double helix spiral structure of our DNA.

2. Periodic Table of Elements

Dimitry Mendeleev, a chemist, saw a table where all the elements fell into place as required after ten years of research.

3. Structure of the Atom

Niels Bohr had a vision of the planets circling the sun on pieces of string. When he awoke from his dream, he was able to see the movement of electrons.

4. Theory of Relativity

Albert Einstein had a dream that he was walking through a farm and came across a herd of cows huddled up against an electric fence. When the farmer suddenly turned on the electric fence, he saw the cows all jump back at the same time – but the farmer saw them jump one by one in a Mexican wave.

5. Analytical Geometry

German soldier René Descartes had a series of three dreams that spurred him to question the nature of reality. He quit the army the next year to study mathematics and philosophy and created Analytical Geometry.

6. Sewing Machine

Elias Howe found himself surrounded by cannibals about to be cooked and eaten. While observing them dance around a fire with spears moving up and down, he noticed holes on the top of the spears. Upon awakening, he realized that having a hole in the needle close to the point, rather than the other end, was the solution he needed for the mechanical sewing machine.

🏁 Conclusion

1. Keep your circadian rhythm dialed in

Go to sleep and wake up around the same time and try to get sunlight before 9 am.

2. Keep moving

Daily exercise is paramount to sound sleep. Just try to avoid it close to bedtime.

3. Get your breathing right

You can download Snorelab for free on the app store to listen to yourself breathe at night. Your brain prefers nasally filtered air to mouth air and mouth taping is a simple solution. Somnfix strips are a popular solution.

4. Cut out the light and noise

If you're going to be looking at screens before bed, try blue-light blocking glasses. Comfortable sleep masks and earplugs are easy to find.

5. Keep it cool

The body prefers temperatures between 60 and 68 degrees F.

6. Stay Hydrated

Drink half your body weight in ounces.


Cai, D., Mednick, S., Harrison, E., Kanady, J., & Mednick, S.. (2009). REM, not incubation, improves creativity by priming associative networks. PNAS June 23, 2009 106 (25) 10130-10134.
Fattinger, S., de Beukelaar, T., Ruddy, K. et al. . (2017). Deep sleep maintains learning efficiency of the human brain. Nat Commun 8, 15405 .
Jike, M., Itani, O., Watanabe, N., Buysse, D., & Kaneita, Y.. (2018). Long sleep duration and health outcomes: A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression, . Sleep Medicine Reviews, Volume 39, Pages 25-36.
Kim, J. Gulati, T. & Ganguly K.. (2019). Competing Roles of Slow Oscillations and Delta Waves in Memory Consolidation versus Forgetting. Cell Vol. 179, Issue 2, P514-526.E13.
Medic, G., Wille, M., & Hemels, M. E. . (2017). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nature and science of sleep, 9, 151–161. .
Okano, K., Kaczmarzyk, J.R., Dave, N. et al. . (2019). Sleep quality, duration, and consistency are associated with better academic performance in college students. npj Sci. Learn. 4, 16 .
Worley S. L.. (2018). The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research . P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 43(12), 758–763..

You said: "Drink half your body weight in ounces." So if I'm 84kg, I should be drinking how much water? Sorry, but I didn't understand this.

From what I've read and like you mentioned, it seems that between 7 and 8 hours could be the optimal amount of sleep for most people. An interesting study about why you should be sleeping between 7 and 8 hours can be found here:

I know some people do well on 6 hours while others need 9 but according to studies, those who sleep around 7-8 hours may end up living longer. I'm currently working on getting enough rest, going to bed and waking up at the same hours. It's a process and not an easy one at that. My sleeping schedule has been hectic during the last 5 years. Sometimes I would go to bed at 2AM and wake up at 10AM or go to bed at 4AM and wake up at 11AM. Now I am going to bed around 12 and waking up around 8AM. I would like to get to an 11PM sleep time and wake up at 6AM but it's going to take some time.

Ever since I started improving my sleep quality I have started having more and better dreams overall.

Like Andrew Huberman suggests (and by the way, follow him for great advice on sleep and others) we get sunlight for at least 5 minutes, as quickly as possible from the moment we wake up. This will help with our circadian rhythm and help us sleep better and wake up faster. He says that we should get 5 minutes when the sun is bright, 10 minutes when there are clouds and 20-30 minutes when it's not very sunny or it's raining. So try going outside as soon as you wake up (within 5 to 60 minutes of waking up) and get some sun as it will surely improve your sleep. It has for me and I've only been doing it for just a few months now.

Hey thanks for the Huberman suggestion. I didn't know about him but had a chance to watch some parts of his videos and it's all very, very interesting. I've actually started taking some notes on how to improve sleep and get more out of my workouts.

Have started going out as soon as I wake up (it's usually light out then) and I don't know if I'm just imagining it but I seem to be having a better sleep, a bit more energy during the day and feeling better about myself overall. Been doing it for about 6 days now. I wonder how I will feel after 6 months of this?

Yes! I recently learned that individuals who regularly do not get enough sleep have an increase in brain plaque - which is strongly associated with Alzheimer's Disease. More research needs to be done to determine if the correlation is significant but I’d rather not take my chances here. I’m so glad you brought this up! Sleep is important!

As a person who often struggles with insomnia (and prioritizing sleep), this article gave me some solid starting points for getting my sleep health back in order. Going to start implementing these things into my daily routine.

I used to have a lot of trouble sleeping, but I began researching why it's important to get enough sleep. This article solidified that. I never knew that mortality rates went up if you didn't get enough sleep. I am going to try eliminating blue light from my bedroom more at night now. I am also going to install some air conditioners. I already grabbed some blackout curtains to ensure that it's dark enough for me to hopefully get some uninterrupted sleep, there is a street lamp right outside of my house and the light used to shine directly into my bedroom window. Another great read, thank you!

I had this problem with a light shining into my room and prevented me from getting a good night sleep too. I noticed that after I put up some black out curtains not only did my sleep improve but I actually felt better every day too! Its been several months since the change but now I couldnt imagine sleeping without the curtains.

Reading this article because I’ve been researching the importance of sleep and reasons why adults might be having trouble sleeping. Somebody close to me in my life has expressed how they have a hard time sleeping at night and it affects them during the day making them tired and groggy. I also know this person does drink a couple beers every day it was interesting to find the correlation between how alcohol affects your sleep every night or by drinking too much makes you feel like you fall asleep good but will actually cause you to have a poor nights sleep. Getting enough sleep is so important to your health and I know having this further knowledge will help my friend in making better lifestyle choices.

Interesting piece! I have always wondered about the origins and purposes of sleep and dreams. I often find myself having the more imaginative, immersive, and nonsensical dreams you described, so it is fascinating to see how this might improve my creative problem-solving ability. There is no doubt sleep is important in everyday life.

True, sleep is vital. (I just wish I remembered my dreams)

Great information here on sleep in general, but especially dreams. I've been getting more and more interested in dream analysis!

It wasn't until the passing of both of my parents (right after the other) that I appreciated and understood the importance of dreams. Both of my parents suffered from chronic illnesses that eventually took their lives. When they were each in the hospital, and after each of them passed, I remember dreaming of them quite often. I still do. Sometimes the things they say in my dreams include advice or things that I wish they had told me in the past, and they represent part of my thoughts that happen to be on my mind when I go to bed. Maybe they are trying to reach me from the other side, or maybe it's my own subconscious and my conscience working together to get me to look at something in a different way. Either way, I've always believed in the power of dreams and how they help me function in the waking hours of the day.

This article really resonated with me because last night I had the most vivid dreams and I was very interested in reading about the different stages of sleep today. I’ve probably learned about this before but I forgot all about it. I wish I would have life-changing dreams like some other famous people mentioned in the article but I usually have the most straightforward dreams. Last night I dreamt I was buying furniture for our addition and discussing prices with the company. No need to figure that out because it’s probably what I’m going to do in the next month. Interesting to read about adults my age and how much sleep they need maybe I do need to get some more sleep! Good to know.

I have always been a big believer in 8-10 hours each night. I will never forget one of my favorite musicians from the band Y&T saying "He always gets at least 8-10 hours and he is in his 70's looking amazing!

Most people I know that only get 6 hours or less look their age.

I didn't know that muscles are paralyzed to prevent the legs and arms from flailing in response to consciousness and the dream experience.

Thanks for sharing!

Hey Leonid, I think that it's interesting you mention that because I definitely agree with Jung. I don't think that all dreams are even necessarily nonsensical, but an experience in a higher realm that we have yet to understand. There are so many more encounters where we have discovered some of the biggest mysteries in life just by dreaming . I've been getting more into lucid dreaming lately so this was a great article to read on how I could deepen my sleep even more.

Thank you for taking your time to write this. It's an interesting contrast to Jung's view of dreams, where they are seen as attempts of psyche to balance itself.

"Jung felt that the psyche sought balance, much like the concept of entropy from the field of physics. Entropy, in simple terms, is a thermodynamic principle that all energy within a system (including the universe) will eventually even out. "