While going through my sent mail for some other purpose I ran into something I had sent to National Geographic. As expected it was way above their intelligence. However, since it sums up the nature of sleep and dreams quite well, I am posting it here.
Wed, May 5, 2010
National Geographic Magazine
PO Box 98199
Washington D C 20090-8199
The Stuff the dreams are made of
The reason why Sleep Researchers are Rodney Dangerfield of Medicine (The secrets of Sleep, May, 2010) and have not got more funding because they have done precious little with whatever they have received. Nay, it is worse, for for the sake of climbing the academic ladder and petty glory, all they have done for the last three decades is to put the carefully observed classical psychoanalytic knowledge about sleep and dreams upon its head, causing tremendous harm to psychiatric treatment and education.
Dreams which were the window to the unconscious mental activities, and the most valuable tool to unearth the person’s secret infantile wishes, of which he himself was not aware of, has now become, in hands of modern sleep researchers, periods of brain stem generated chaos devoid of any meaning or value. But we dream of cars, girls, White Christmas, because what is beyond our reach during the day, kind nature lets us have it in the privacy of our sleep and dreams. While such wish fulfillments occur in disguise and often accompanied by intensely contradictory emotions, no language or artist ever makes a mistake as to what the dreams are really about.
All the modern sleep research can boast of finding is that sleep and dreams are there for us to enhance our memory and that sleep is a period where the brain does a second shift. This contradicts the most fundamental observation about sleep. We sleep because we want to have nothing to do with the world whenever we can extricate ourselves from its demands. It is an attempt to shut out all stimuli, external and internal, and take a flight back to the intrauterine existence – explaining as to why children and sometimes even adults assume the fetal position in sleep - and in case of those who show sleep apnea, even further down the evolutionary process right back to our inorganic roots. For the natural state of the universe is inorganic, and life processes are a miniscule rarity, into which we come reluctantly and try to escape from as soon as we see no reason to give into the tumultuous clamor of life.
Surendra Kelwala MD