The concept of dreaming has been explored by humans over the test of time- in methods both abstract and scientific. For the large majority of human history, dreaming was seen as mystical and often associated with some form of divine intervention. However, newer research gives us more direction in the physiological purpose of dreaming, along with newfound methods of studying this phenomenon. In “Real-time dialogue between experimenters and dreamers during REM sleep,” Konkoly et al. explore different studies which suggest the dreamers in REM (rapid eye-movement) sleep retain many more cognitive abilities than previously assumed. Among these abilities, includes lucid dreamers being able to communicate with researchers in real time during REM sleep. While on a very general level, REM sleep is associated with mood regulation and memory consolidation, although the actual mechanisms of this require much more investigation. Konkoly’s research opens up many possibilities to future studies regarding REM sleep, through this method of communication with lucid dreamers during REM sleep.
The effects of REM sleep are studied in “Restless REM Sleep Impedes Overnight Amygdala Adaptation,” where Wassing et al. found that poor REM sleep is associated with a decreased ability of the amygdala to process emotional memories during sleep. This somewhat unconventional study recorded participants singing karaoke while wearing muffled headphones, preventing them from hearing their own voices. Inevitably, their singing voices tended not to match the tune of the songs (“Silent Night” and the Dutch national anthem). When researchers played these recordings back to participants, greater activation in the amygdalae of these participants suggested feelings of shame after hearing these poor singing performances. For participants that experienced restful sleep after this first day of research, the amygdala response was lessened after hearing their singing the next day. However, for participants who experienced restless sleep (poor quality REM sleep monitored by electroencephalogram (EEG)), their amygdalae were just as sensitive, sometimes more, when hearing their singing during the next day of research. This study suggests that REM sleep plays an important role in processing memories overnight, especially these negative emotions of shame and embarrassment associated with the amygdala. Furthermore, those suffering from REM sleep disorders may be more susceptible to psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There are many potential therapeutic applications within the intersection of these studies. From Wassing’s research, the importance of REM sleep is emphasized in regard to mood regulation, particularly after traumatic events and in those suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. By employing the communication methods investigated by Konkoly, further strategies can be developed to enhance the quality of REM sleep, potentially reducing the severity of psychological disorders, such as depression. Current research implicates that music therapy during sleep can be beneficial to adults suffering from depression (Lund 2020). This can be combined with the work of Konkoly by providing music therapy to lucid dreamers over the course of several weeks and months, which should provide measurable differences in amygdala activity in response to traumatic events. The goal of this practice would be to increase the duration and quality of REM sleep. This could be an essential therapeutic measure for treating depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Other therapeutic practices should be researched using Konkoly’s methods of communicating with lucid dreamers to enhance REM sleep, ultimately decreasing the severity of amygdala responses to traumatic events (Wasser 2017).
Konkoly, K., Appel, K., Chabani, E., Mironov, A. Y., Mangiaruga, A., Gott, J., Mallett, R., Caughran, B., Witkowski, S., Whitmore, N., Berent, J., Weber, F., Pipa, G., Türker, B., Maranci, J.-B., Sinin, A., Dorokhov, V., Arnulf, I., Oudiette, D., … Paller, K. (2021). Real-time dialogue between experimenters and dreamers during rem sleep. Current Biology, 31(7), R352–R353. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3606772
Lund, H.N., Pedersen, I.N., Johnsen, S.P. et al. Music to improve sleep quality in adults with depression-related insomnia (MUSTAFI): study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials21, 305 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-020-04247-9
Wassing, R., Lakbila-Kamal, O., Ramautar, J. R., Stoffers, D., Schalkwijk, F., & Van Someren, E. J. W. (2019). Restless REM sleep impedes overnight amygdala adaptation. Current Biology, 29(14), 2351–2358. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.06.034
Zimmer, K. (2019, June 11). Karaoke-sleep study links disrupted REM with poor memory processing. The Scientist Magazine®. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/karaoke-sleep-study-links-disrupted-rem-with-poor-memory-processing-66139.