According to scientists the most dynamic and structured dreams occur during REM or rapid eye movement sleep. REM sleep is an important neurodevelopmental process that involves selective pruning and maintaining new synapses. During REM sleep, newly formed postsynaptic dendritic spines are pruned, facilitating subsequent spine formation during development and storage of newly learned motor tasks.
REM sleep is not a passive process. REM fosters developmental neuroplasticity, which starts during embryonic and fetal development and continues during the first 3 months of infancy. REM plays an important role in modifying and maturing brain circuits. The lack of this plasticity, or dysregulations of active sleep, may result in reduced intellectual ability, reduced learning and memory consolidation, and mental illness. Even though we are not completely clear on the role of dreaming and REM sleep we know that dreams can be indicative that the REM sleep experience may be happening. Dreams of course by subjective account can be extremely pleasurable and even life altering. A phenomenon known as lucid dreaming can be so life like it can be confused with waking moments. Lucid dreaming may allow for enriched creative processes and greater personal awareness.
All in all, we know dreams are critical for memory formation and maintaining our mental health. The foundations of learning, emotional recovery, and processing may be deeply influenced by functional sleep and dreaming. The importance of dream filled sleep is critical for our overall health and should be supported if not being achieved on a regular basis.Sean Devlin, D.O.