Research Round #3- Why do we dream?

Hi everyone!

For my third round of research with my question "Why do we dream?", I will be looking into sleep disorders and how they affect sleep and dreams. 


Insomnia-  Insomnia is when there is difficulty when falling asleep and then staying asleep.  Although most people have that once in a while, insomnia is when it happens continuously. It’s caused by high stress levels, some kinds of medication, anxiety, depression or substance abuse. It is actually likely that insomnia has a relation to nightmares. A lot of the time, people do not remember their dreams, so some researchers suggested that maybe people are constantly waking up because they are having a nightmare. People with anxiety, depression, insomnia and other problems are more likely to have nightmares. (1,2)

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Sleep apnea- Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where your breathing repeatedly stops and starts as you sleep. (1,3,4) There are 3 kinds of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common, is when your throat muscles relax causing you to not breathe as much as you should be. It’s caused when when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula), the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue. When the muscles relax, your airway gets smaller and closes as you breathe. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and wakes you up so that you can reopen your airway. Most people don’t even remember waking up because it is so brief. Central sleep apnea is when your brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles that control your breathing. It is caused when the brain tries, but fails to send signals to your breathing muscles. Complex sleep apnea syndrome which is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is when someone has obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea combined. The biggest symptom of sleep apnea is snoring really loudly, however not everyone has that symptom. Some other symptoms include when you stop breathing during sleep (which would be reported by another person), gasping for air during sleep waking up with a dry mouth, have a headache in the morning, insomnia, hypersomnia(extreme fatigue during the day), problems paying attention and easy irritability.  Sleep apnea can reduce the number of dreams a person has at night, however doesn’t usually get rid of dreaming completely. People with sleep apnea do have more nightmares than the average person and sometimes the disorder can even be incorporated into the dream as well. (3,5)

Illustration showing soft tissues of the throat Sleepwalking -  Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is when you get up and start walking around as you sleep. (1,6) Sleepwalking is a parasomnia which is an undesired occurrence during sleep.(8) It is more likely to occur in children than adults and would usually stop before a child hits their teenage years. Isolated sleepwalking incidents usually don’t mean any serious problems however reoccurring often sleepwalking could indicate a sleep disorder. It usually occurs early into sleep, 1 or 2 hours after you have fallen asleep. Most people who sleepwalk tend to walk around as they sleep and do various things around the house such as getting dressed or eating. But it can go as far as people leaving the house and driving. It can be caused by sleep deprivation, stress, fever or a messy sleep schedule. It could also be caused by substance use, certain medications, sleep disordered breathing such as sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. (6) Sleepwalking occurs when two parts of the brain are awake at once.  Sleepwalkers don’t walk in REM sleep( the stage in which you dream in) but about half an hour before they enter REM sleep. (7)

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Sleep terrors-  Sleep terrors are periods during sleep of screaming, intense fears, and flailing during sleep.(1,8) It’s a parasomnia like sleepwalking.  Many people confuse sleep terror with nightmares. The dreamer in a nightmare wakes up from the dream and usually remembers what happened. But during sleep terror, the sleeper stays asleep and don’t usually remember it. Symptoms often include sitting up in bed with wide eyes, appearing frightened, kicking and thrashing, hard to awaken, or a racing pulse. The causes are very similar to sleepwalking; sleep deprivation, stress, fever or a messy sleep schedule. As well as substance use, certain medications, sleep disordered breathing such as sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. Sleep terrors usually happen. (8)  Sleep terrors happen in the first 2-3 hours of sleep whereas nightmares occur later into the night during REM sleep which is when you dream. (9)

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Pictures(in order in which they are placed in my research)






If you have any comments, ideas or question, feel free to let me know.

Thanks for reading!

Original Post

Hi Rhea, nice post! 

I just finish one round of my inquiry which is about depression. So, I would highly agree with you that the one with depression will have a higher chance to get  Insomnia. Furthermore, the chance of getting nightmare will increase as well.  Those are the citations which support my view. Looking forward for your post. 

  1. (n.d.). Depression Symptoms & Signs. Retrieved from
  2. American Psychiatric Association (2000a). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision: DSM-IV-TR ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0-89042-025-6. P349-P350
  3. Schuster, S. (n.d.). 17 Surprising Physical Symptoms of Depression. Retrieved from 

Hey Rhea, 

As a child sleep walker, this research round hits close to home for me. It's very eye opening to see so many sleep disorders when sleep is something everyone does daily and its a necesity to survive. I thought you did an amazing job of clearly explaining each disorder and I can't wait to read your metamorphosis. If you happen to continue with this topic during your next cycle you could look into the history or dreams and the many theories behind them. Here are some links incase you are interested.

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