Our internal body clock which alarms us on when to sleep and when to wake up is governed by circadian rhythm. If you had lived in ancient China about 4500 years ago and became ill, your doctor would have talked about the concepts of yin and yang, and the relationship between dreams and illness. If you had lived in Greece around 400 BCE and went to Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, he would have used dream therapy and encouraged you to incubate a healing dream. There were dream temples throughout the ancient world, the Temple of Asklepius in Greece perhaps being the most famous.
In the mid-1900s, Vasily Kasatkin, a psychiatrist at the Leningrad Neurosurgical Institute, studied the content of 10,240 dreams from 1,200 subjects over a 40-year period.
Physicians from Hippocrates to Kasatkin to MDs Bernie Siegel and Larry Dossey have found that dreams can often predict illness. In the work Tallulah Lyons and I have done with cancer patients, we also have found that many people dream about their cancer before it is diagnosed.
I have heard many dreams where people received “preventive” advice, especially about nutrition and other lifestyle issues.
These include the amygdala, hippocampus, parahippocampal cortex, anterior cingulate, and medial prefrontal cortex.
The amygdala assigns emotional significance to the data it receives—and it has a pretty loose grip on reality.
Based on PNI, it is important to use interventions that maximize the right brain “limbic logic” in order to stimulate more profound, positive psychophysiologic change. In our work with cancer patients over the past decade, we have seen how powerful dream imagery can be. This work falls into two primary categories: Working with and transforming negative dream images, such as those from nightmares, and working with positive and healing dream images. Our work is showing that transformed images from nightmares can be used effectively with visualization techniques aimed at pain reduction, treatment and recovery. Our bodies don’t discriminate between sensory images in the mind and what we call reality—thanks to the amygdala and “limbic logic”.
In a relaxed, meditative state, we are capable of more rapid and intense healing, growth, learning and change—just think of all those neuropeptides you can direct!
Dreams provide us with images that are deeply meaningful to us—and they do so in a way that circumvents our resistances. Dreams show us where in our lives we are at dis-ease—and put us in touch with our personal conflicts. Dreams do spotlight where we might be at dis-ease in our lives and what needs to be changed. Through dreams you can cut through conscious resistance and, because of the parts of the brain that are inactive during dreaming, can cut through waking logic and let limbic logic play.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said, “We create an illusion of the world that we call reality and then we marinate in that.” Working with dream imagery can point us in the direction of a more healthful and healing reality. A snarling and attacking dog in one dream evolves into an active but unaggressive dog in a subsequent dream, then a friendly puppy in a later dream, and finally a magnificent white dog companion. Scary snakes in one dream evolve into quiet sleeping snakes, and then fun play doh snakes in subsequent dreams. Smashed pottery in one dream evolves into unfinished unfired pottery, and then into expensive new pottery loaded with sumptuous food in later dreams. A fire ravaged home in one dream evolves into a small neat hut in a subsequent dream, and then into an elegant mansion by the sea in a later dream.
In each series, the dreamer did extensive dream work between each dream—journaling, sharing with the group, using various dream work techniques and focusing on the key images in meditative imagery exercises.
Another example is a woman who had a dream that left her with feelings of strength and confidence. I had a dream of amazingly colored tropical birds which, when I re-entered the dream, told me my light and energy came from within and they would teach me how. There are many ways that powerful and positive dream imagery can be carried into waking life. In our work the last three years, the last two of which have been under grants from the Lloyd Symington Foundation and the H.M. 100% reported an increased sense of connection with others, an increased sense of connection to inner resources, an increased understanding of healing at multiple levels and an increased quality of life—particularly emotional, social and spiritual. 100% reported increased feelings of control over life and health issues, increased feelings of hope, and an increased understanding of how to live fully now, despite cancer. Even the question has puzzled scientists for centuries and the answer is; we are not perfectly sure.
It is also known as the “Paradoxical Sleep” because at this time brain activities are similar to the awakened state.

With its vivid, complex and emotional nature, dreaming has inspired various religious moments, scientific theories and artistic representations. Studies have shown that quality and quantity of sleep matters a lot when it comes to learning and memorizing things.
Aristotle, who was born shortly after Hippocrates died, helped advance the theory that dreams reflected a person’s bodily health and suggested a doctor could diagnose patients’ illnesses by listening to their dreams. Understanding the connection between dreams and healing started in ancient times and for thousands of years received respect. He discovered that illness is associated with an increase in dream recall, often with nightmarish images. The ancient Greeks called them “prodromal” dreams from the Greek words “pro” meaning before, and “dromos” meaning running. These are the dreams that give us information that can help prevent problems from occurring. One man who was really enjoying all the red meat allowed on the Atkins diet had a dream where he was shown he needed to “Eat Fish.” A number of people have shared “vegetable dreams” they believe were encouraging them to eat more vegetables. Kasatkin was on the right track when he talked about the communication between the brain and body creating dreams that help diagnose an illness. Pert’s work demonstrates the complex interrelationships among the behavioral, neural, endocrine and immune processes. Every emotional state involves the release of neuropeptides and other biochemical messengers.
She believes—and I quote, “Dreams are direct messages from your bodymind, giving you valuable information about what’s going on physiologically as well as emotionally. The limbic system mediates emotional experience, emotional behavior and conversion of emotions into physiology.
Well, when the part of the brain controlling rational thought is inactive, the irrational may be seen as normal, as happens in dreams. During dreaming these highly activated areas of the brain communicate in different ways than during waking consciousness, and allow for emotions to be processed differently. Commonly accepted integrative medicine interventions that do this include guided imagery, hypnosis and biofeedback, as well as stories, body work, art and music, humor and movement therapies. We believe our work with dream imagery has application for other types of illness too—and for anyone seeking a fuller sense of wellness in life.
Additionally, as documented by another speaker here, Patricia Garfield, in her book Healing Power of Dreams, as one goes through a healing process the dream imagery evolves and becomes more positive.
Pairing dream imagery with visualization offers many advantages over prepackaged visualization tapes or waking guided imagery exercises alone which the person may not relate to. You can then take the dream images and either recreate them, in the case of healing images, or transform them in the case of nightmare images. This may take a lot of waking life work and a series of dreams over weeks or months—but the outcome results can be dramatic.
There was a progressive change in emotion and attitude in each series, with the final image carrying numinous or healing energy ? a sense of being in a totally new relationship with the issue at hand. Then, a week before surgery, she had a dream in which a beautiful white horse galloped up to her and communicated that she should climb on its back.
In the days before surgery when she felt the beginnings of panic, she re-entered her white horse dream and, using all her senses, re-lived her transformation from a state of panic into a state of support and calm.
She wanted a way to recreate that feeling in her waking life so, while she knitted herself a sweater, she reimagined the positive emotions from her dream, savoring them with all her senses and knitting those positive feelings into the sweater, which she now wears to treatments and doctor visits where she continues to use the imagery.
Some say we have to sleep to maintain normal rhythm of life while other say, sleep plays an important role in brain development. Presence of melatonin and gradual decrees in body temperature causes sleepiness in our body. The NON REM SLEEP cycle repeats itself again and again till the end of the sleep without retouching stage 1.
The amount of sleep requires to a person depends upon their age and the physical activity they perform in a day. He found that dreams often call attention very specifically to an illness before it could be medically diagnosed.
Thus, prodromal dreams can tell us what is going on in our bodies before the symptoms become obvious and readily diagnosable. Fourteen months later my gynecologist did call me and, like in the dream, told me that I needed a D & C. However, in my own experience I have found that dreams can be a valuable early warning system about health problems. She has found that even tiny immune cells have receptors for neuropeptides, which she calls the “molecules of emotion.” Neuropeptides are molecular messengers that connect all systems of the body—including the immune system.

The right hypothalamus, which integrates the sensory-perceptual, emotional and cognitive functions of the mind with the biology of the body, is also active.
When the part of the brain that deals with sequential thinking is inactive, you may get images from past, present and future mixed together. The event may not really be threatening, but the amygdala perceives it as real and triggers chemical changes in the body as though it were real. We use the recognized and proven modalities of visualization and active imagination techniques and take them to the next level by customizing them with the individual’s own dream imagery.
The physiological impact of these positive healing images can be enhanced through the use of visualization and guided imagery techniques.
The emotionally-laden, symbolic communications among parts of the brain that are highly activated during dreaming provide imagery that is exclusively personal to the needs of the dreamer. Carl and Stephanie Mathews Simonton, pioneers in the use of imagery with cancer patients, worked with a highly intellectual patient who felt everything needed to come from the rational mind—one of the problems some people face when trying to work with standard visualizations.
The patient was then able to use active imagination to reconnect and get information from this inner doctor.
He states that the dream, and in particular the central image, pictures the emotion of the dreamer and that the intensity of this central image is a measure of the strength of the emotion.
It took enormous energy to do this in the dream, but when she did, she and the horse became as one as they galloped smoothly through a narrow opening between two huge rocks. Breathing rate and blood pressure rises at this time, visual intense dreaming also occurs at REM sleep. When brain tries to make sense of this and synthesize random impulse, we experience dreams. William Dement, founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and a heavy smoker, dreamed that he saw an X-ray of his lungs and knew he had inoperable lung cancer.
One woman shared that she periodically had dreams where she was in a room where everything was distorted and out of proportion. At night some of the stored information is released and allowed to bubble up into consciousness as a dream.
Meanwhile, there is a loss of functional connection between the frontal cortex and posterior perceptual areas which contribute to a lack of reality testing—hence different types of brain communications. Likewise, when the limbic system and amygdala are active, it enhances emotional associations and social and emotional processing where imagery carries an emotional charge. This part of the brain doesn’t know a real event from a perceived event—yet perception can change biology. We hypothesize that dream imagery is more powerful than even the best generic guided imagery tapes or scripts.
The young man needed his own imagery, presented to him in his dream state, to get over the hurdle of how to use imagery and active imagination while awake. One of the reasons dream images work so well is that they arise from within us and hold up a mirror to our emotionally charged perceptions—such as our fears, beliefs and hopes.
They are dreams that give us a “heads up” and show us the emotional, spiritual and sometimes physical areas of our life that are out of balance and in need of repair. I’d like to share a few brief examples here that illustrate how positive dream imagery can be paired with waking imagery and other meditative work. In this article I have tried a little bit to shed some light on the sleep cycles and brain activities at that time. A normal adult spend about 80% of their sleep time in NON REM SLEEP and rest 20% in REM SLEEP. Over time she came to realize that this dream was telling her that things were out of proportion—or balance—in her life and that if she didn’t correct this she would become ill.
Pert emphasizes that for maximum functioning of the immune system, it is important to free blocked emotions and to find constructive expression for all emotions. When this initial level of dream work is done, we encourage the dreamer to find ways he or she can continue working with and honoring the dream. Yet scary dreams often only seem bad because they are telling us something we have been ignoring, repressing or denying. After each REM sleep the sleep cycle begins aging with and with each succeeding cycle NERM gets shorter and REM grows, giving us around 40 minutes dreaming time just before waking.

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Comments Rem dreams and emotional brain homeostasis

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