The subconscious is usually the right side of the brain or the opposite side of the persons writing hand. Within the subconscious lie different types of things such as suppressed emotions, creativity, and basic human instinct (Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). The conscious part of the mind works when people are awake and is the part of the mind that handles things that people can understand. No one truly knows why a person can’t interact with the subconscious while awake, however studies show that dreams are a way in which people can better comprehend its behavior. The condition of the body during dreaming is interesting because the brain shuts off all sensory receptors thus, canceling all somatic impulses (Ullman and Zimmerman 1979). This puts the body in an almost paraplegic state. The brain however continues to control all autonomic functions such as blood flow, heart pulsation, and lung inflation. During the sleep, homeostasis will fluctuate because sleep occurs on four stages (Davidmann, 1998). The individual goes from awake to stage 1, then to 2, 3, and finally 4, the deepest stage of sleep. After spending about twenty minutes in stage 4, they return to stage 1 and progress back to stage 4. The individual will continue to make these cycles throughout their sleep. Most individuals will experience about 4 to 5 cycles a night (Davidmann, 1998). This is why humans are more apt to wake up at specific times in the night and not sporadically (most people do not notice this however).
During stage 1 the individual will experience what has been named REM (Rapid Eye Movement), I will make further elaboration on REM momentarily. For now I would like to point out that during REM the body will show more signs of consciousness by spontaneous muscle contractions, flagellate excretion, and oculomoter coordination (eye movement). The body will experience these tensions and reactions because this is the active time of sleep in the average human (Davidmann, 1998). I spoke earlier of REM (Rapid Eye Movement); it is the time in which the individual will have their dreams. Nathaniel Kleitman discovered it in 1953. It always occurs in the lightest stage of sleep, stage 1. It has been given its name because of the muscle contractions in the eye motor receptors. These electrical impulses originate from the brain stem and then travel to the eyes to produce imagery. The catalysts for these impulses are triggered by the subconscious mind and the emotions within it (Davidmann, 1998). The REM will usually begin ninety minutes after sleep is initiated and will last roughly ten to fifteen minutes (Davidmann, 1998). It is during the ten to fifteen minutes that dreams occur. The REM will end and the individual will slip into deeper sleeps, until the forth stage is reached. Once this occurs the mind begins to come out of the deeper sleep stages until it reaches the REM once again. The interesting factor is that each time the sleeper enters the REM phase of sleep the REM phase will increase in length. This repeats four to five times in the average sleep. The reason the dreams occur in the REM or the lightest stage is because this is the only stage in which the conscious mind can interpret the imagery of the subconscious. This is not to say that the subconscious doesn’t remain active in deeper sleep stages but the conscious mind isn’t alert enough to decipher the imagery the subconscious creates in deep sleep. A good personification description of this is to say that the conscious simply can’t swim as deep as the subconscious. The REM is also interesting because if a person does not experience it they will suffer from various sleeping disorders because it is required by the body just like sunlight is required. People who experience exaggerated REM will suffer from fatigue and sleep depravation while they are awake. Usually, a fully-grown person has about 4 to 5 cycles of REM sleep, consisting of about 25% of a night’s sleep. A newborn child’s sleep can consist of as high as 50% REM type sleep (Davidmann, 1998). As I previously stated, a person would go through the sleep stage cycle four to five times a night, hence four to five dreams per night. With this in mind it can be calculated the average human being will have 136,000 dreams in a lifetime, spending about six total years in the REM stage dreaming. Mentally retarded individuals or people with low IQs tend to spend less time in the REM type sleep, but other mental disorders are capable of initiating more REM type sleep. The reason for this is unknown.
Now that the diagnostics of dreams has been covered I would like to focus on the origin of dreams from a medical standpoint. As a consequence, memory, sensory, muscle-control, and cognitive areas of the brain are randomly stimulated, resulting in the higher cortical brain attempting to make some sense of it. The reason for these stimulations is unknown but various medical researchers believe they are the after effects of certain chemical reactions in the brain. This, according to the research, gives rise to the experience of a dream, but there is controversy of the question of whether dreams have intentional meaning. Many psychotherapists agree that dreams are stimulated by impulses from the brain stem but they have actual meaning and are not just hallucinations.