Tag Archives: ask the doctor

Turkey dreams

Q: Does eating Turkey really help increase serotonin and make my xmass dreams more funky.

Firstly Turkey does help increase serotonin intake BUT this does not make xmass or thanksgiving dreams more funky.

If your like me, on xmass or thanksgiving day you eat some Turkey, some bread, fruits, salads, a few roast vegetables, maybe some dip and a whole lot of pudding. While you do this you often also drink a substantial amount of Alcohol.  Which as you can guess is actuly our “weirdness” culprit. Alcohol is the big doosey here for every article on how serotonin alone (not just Turkey) affects sleep, depression, etc., there are at least 5 more on Alcohol and its effect on sleep and the body. Your weird xmass dreams are also effected because, you guessed it, you expect to have them. You have had them in the past, everyone talks about them and its a fun way to spend the rest of the day when you wake up and don’t feel like moving as you have a pretty full belly.

Turkey and its effect on sleep is partly myth, partly reality. Preprocessed Turkey (like deli-meat) will be different to non-preprocessed (fresh cooked at home) as well, due what they do to processed meat (more salt, more fat, more accessible protein). If you really want a deit that will give you better “happy dreams” I am afraid that 1 meal Turkey is more likely to just give you a case of gas. Serotonin intake is also affected by everything else you consume on xmass day. And the thing is messing around with Serotonin isn’t something we should just do because we like weird dreams.

Serotonin doesn’t just give us the “happy” feeling, it also does other stuff, and having lots of it will actuly make you nuts. Were talking barking-foam-mad-dog mental asylum nuts here. You want to increase and decrease serotonin slowly and not without the help of real doctor or psychiatrist. 

Eating heaps of Turkey for a while may make your feelings, dreams and behavior change ever so slightly, but the serotonin is converted by your body, your body will stop converting it when you reach whatever level is normal for you and the rest will just end up in the toilet.

If you want to change your diet to get better dreams your better off doing, you guessed it, what every health expert pretty much tells you about diet. Mostly fruit and vegetables, medium grain and pulse, some meat and cheese; not to much and plenty of fresh water; Skip out on Caffeine and Alcohol drinks. Although yes alcohol helped you with the “weird” dream, the “weird” dream effect is diminishing. The longer and more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to do damage and cause issues.

Republished due to high search count. 

The Collective Conscienceness Myth?

“Hey Darakat, what do you think of the ‘Collective unconsciousness’ thing?” – John Dreaming in Northcort

I will be the first to admit my fist thoughts were sceptical. And it pretty much stayed that way.

The issue we have here is one of a diverse set of different beliefs of a theory that wasn’t actually entirely completed and then was subsequently corrupted by others. Jung is credited with the main stay of this idea appears in The Archetypes and the collective unconscious (1990, Routledge). Jung died before he was able to entirely finish it, hence it’s posthumous collective publication. As I said most people thing of what Jung meant is actuality not entirely correct.

Firstly collective unconsciousness is in itself a concept that relies on one psychological idea, which is that we are all connected in some means. This is what Jung actually meant, but as far as I am aware he also said that we have a personal unconsciousness. Both are of equal importance. The unconsciousness is also poorly understood by both Psychology and more solid Scientific fields. We don’t even know exactly where our consciousness ends or begins. We can’t even seem to fully know if we actually have free will or not. This is pretty deep stuff to be messing around with without fully understanding it. Instead, most of the time, we are doing the best we can. This is why Psychologists need to do so much school, and then do some more after that, and more, and so on. Life long learning is of upmost importance to such fields.

Then take this and shove archetypes into it. Jung only describes a small number of archetypes, 5-6 at most. Why then when you look in New Age books on them do we see sets of 12-15 or even more? Why do they look suspiciously like a cross between a Rider Wait Tarot deck and Campbell Newman’s Mono-myth?

I’m sorry but you have just been conned, at least to some extent.

I love some New Age things as much as the next person, I practice modern paganism, I have more than a few useful Llewellyn Press (though they have got better in recent years) books on my shelves, and I own more than my share of what I will politely call “complete and utter crap” texts. Problem with most new things is that when it gets popular, it becomes moneymaking. Commercialism essentially takes over and someone in marketing wants to make as much as possible. Thus they add what Jung wrote, to a bit of stuff that people expect (here enters the Tarot and Newman’s Mono-myth), add a bit of water to wash it down, call it Collective Unconsciousness Applied or some such and wallah. You have a best seller.

These books are not a complete con, though. There worth of course depends on the author and the level of research that goes into them. Most are average, but more not so great stuff is being put into “print” thanks to electronic publishing. Wait a while for that to die down, and when electronic publishers get a bit wiser about the stuff they produce, there should be a some ok stuff their too. Best bet is to use your own judgement, do some self-research on the myths and connections for yourself and decide what is and is not useful for you. This takes time and work, but if you are wanting to use this method effectively your going to need to do that at some stage anyway. The best bet is to do it first up, as then you don’t need to re-do everything again when you work out you went wrong, or find its no longer helping.

We hear all the time about the collective mind, thought and ideas that form from our greater cultural inter-activeness. Our culture and religion and everyone we interact with of course influence our dreams. Dream contents are pretty much influenced by everything, including dreams themselves. One can’t help thinking though from a more scientific approach to it?

Well its not something that is easily gained as I mentioned Jung didn’t quite finish the idea to its fullest. The other issue is that what we are looking for may not be possible with current technology or ability. Dreams are often subjective, and although a Cow may mean something relating to milk and the mother and protection to some, it may also mean love and kindness, or it may be a symbol of destruction and inner turmoil. Jung often taught that context was also very important, it was not just the collective unconscious that was being used but the dreamers own conscious and the context of the dream. For example the dream may have a Cow playing a guitar in a field of poppies while bombs from B57’s are dropping into the fields exploding into large puddles of green milk. The cow is playing KISS and wearing white and black makeup. If the dreamer had just been to a KISS concert and usually works as a milkman who has had to deliver a lime flavoured milk due to a promotion that includes a local sporting team whose colours are green and logo is a B57 bomber featuring a guitar playing Cow, its not to hard to work our where this dream has come from. If however the dreamer is normally a lawyer who has been caught up in a particularly bad divorce case, it’s a bit different. The collective unconscious comes in more when we are looking at the archetype within a dream and how they may influence or be influenced by the dreamer and what this related to.

Lucidity and truama

I was wondering if you could do a post about trauma and dreams; and how to stop them. I’ve heard that lucid dreaming is good- but every time I try I end up in a hypnagogic state. It really affects my sleep as I want to try meditating but it’s difficult because of the stuff that pops up. So maybe a post on lucid dreaming and trauma to block nightmares would be helpful…

Firstly I want to say how its great that you feel comfortable asking this question. Trauma and getting over trauma isn’t easy and I know it can be very difficult for some people to even admit they are having issues with trauma, or dreaming in general. A lot of people just enter a state of conformity, for generally the worse. I also want to say that this is a trigger warning for those who are still not ready to deal with this yet.

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Addressing the “Reality” of dreams

The irony is that we all hear voices and see “things that aren’t there” when we dream, voice and visions that we do not consciously create — and that’s considered socially acceptable. It’s even acceptable, to a certain extent, to look to dreams for personal direction. But for some reason, it’s not acceptable to listen to these voices or pay attention to these images when we are awake. And the truth is that everyone hears voices and sees image in their head, even when we are awake. And I would hazard that most people have had the experience of hearing a voice or seeing an image which did not feel like it came from them. And sometimes these experiences feel … well, significant… (http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/hearing-voices-or-talking-to-ourselves/)

Talking to “yourself” is nor acceptable as it is mentally unstable
We could talk here about historical context, or even anthropology, we can take this to deep psychology or philosophy. The entire argument is a logical fallacy. The problem is that this is in fact http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies). Having a considerable level of experience with mentally ill people in my real life I get REALLY annoyed at this argument. It essentially is saying that your mentally ill and therefor everything you say, do, or have ever done is therefor able to be ignored. Which you can tell is a pretty stupid argument. Especially when we consider the fact that most of us, especially those who read this blog regularly will know that dreams are in fact a projection of our unconsciousness mixed with a dash of psychology and some neurology thrown in for good measure. If you think people who interact with their own unconsciousness are nuts, then I will kindly show you the door.

Now we have addressed that, we will go onto the idea of “Reality.”

Philosophically speaking our dreams are real. Not a different state or reality or a different universe. They are real. You experience thought in them, conduct actions, do things that seem as “real” as they do when you are awake. Sure they seem pretty silly, or “weird” (https://dreamsandbass.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/you-are-not-weird/) when you are awake. Last night I had a dream that combined George R.R. Martins Song of Ice and Fire with Rob Balder’s and Doctor Who. We are not talking fully surreal (see
: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhXGxNgv6Iw ), but its pretty cool. Maybe some might say its “Weird” but we have already pretty much dismissed this sort of talk as logical fallacy and even possible bullying.

My point is, don’t worry about how “real” things are unless you really want to get a decent headache.

You want to interact with your dream characters? Do so. No really do. Interacting with your dreams is a awesome thing to do. Are they really spirits or gods? I can’t really answer that one for you. That really up to you, and I know what I think (but this is not a blog about my opinion on those matters, my opinions on religion/philosophy go elsewhere). And to be perfectly honest I think we have better things to do then argue ourselves into yet another debate that goes nowhere.

Worried about your mental health? Seek help from your GP or psychologist.

Luna formula : How can we show a correlation that the moon phase is linked to our dreams

Dreaming statistics is a area a lot of people seem interested in. Mainly as with statistics we can show things like the moon phase is linked to our dreams. The issue here is that a heck of a lot of other things are at work. Here is a list of the main physically external and internal bodily things that you will have to also take into consideration:

  • Nighttime temperature (outside and inside)
  • Time you went to bed
  • Time you wake
  • Amount of time in bed
  • Amount of sleep
  • Overall sleep quality
  • Feelings as you go to bed and wake (happy, sad, angry, etc)
  • Bedpartners
  • Stress
  • Cycle (if you are female)
  • Physical state (sore, fine, well, sick, etc)
  • Medication taken
  • Alcohol consumes
  • Caffeine taken

You will need to measure all of these AS WELL AS the phase of the moon for each night for at least a year. Given about 300 odd days worth of data (assuming you miss a few days) you will then need to somehow work out how much the moon was a influence and how much all of these other things are. They are all significant factors and none can be dismissed as trivial and you will find each one causes your sleep to be different and therefor influences your dreams to some extent.  However with 300 days worth of data there will be at least a considerable number of days when all of these conditions are similar enough to be taken out of the equation, leaving only the moon phases. The more data that’s similar in each of these other factors, the better. If you have more than 100 similar days then your getting somewhere for fining enough data for a coloration between moon phase and dreams.

But how would the moon actuly affect our dreams? Gravity? Well no. The moons pull is significant, but the actual color, shape and presence of the moon in the sky is a psychological trigger. Considering everything else that has to be dismissed, arguing the moon has a physical effect on your dreams is pretty much impossible to get enough significant data on. The very fact you are measuring the moon as a possible impact on dream content, will in fact impact on dream content . Remember that dream content are made up of memory and psychology (88-99%) and the rest is neurology (0-12%) and physical states (0-12%), the fact that the moon phase fits in the psychology section more than it ever will in the physical section.

Why? Well most of the effect that people cite is tides. The moon accounts for roughly 2/3rds of the tides with the rest coming from (mostly) the Sun and the rotation of the Earth, wind and so on. But the moon has this effect over a very large area of water. Although you are made of (mostly) water, the moons physical effect on you is no more significant gravitationally then the seat you are sitting at. We can basically dismiss any claims the moon has a physical effect on you.

So how do I show a psychological correlation in my stats?Firstly don’t use a Gregorian calendar. Instead in your sheet use a 365 day calendar with day 1 being when you started. The reason for this is the Gregorian calendar is confusing and only makes sense in for when you want to work out what season it is, not for when you want to do calculations.

Secondly measure as MANY of the other physical and psychological triggers as possible (the list above is a good start, but by no means comprehensive).

The moon orbits roughly 13.36 times a year and each orbit lasts 27.32 days with the Earth orbiting 365.25 days. The error here is significant, but you can decrease it by increasing the detail in each of these numbers.

The moon “phase” is generally what people tell me “relates” to dream psychology. The “full” phase is the main one and opinion differs on how long the moon is “full”, technically we want to be a scientific about this as possible so using local time data to calculate when the moon is “full” exactly and use your stats sheet to then calculable the date of the next full moon. It should be 27.32 days apart each time, so if its full on day 1, it should be full again on day 27, then again day 54, then again day 82 (not 81), 109, etc. Day 13 should be “new”, days in between waxing (before full) and waning (after full). You will need to correct for error the longer you keep the calculation going, the more accurate you keep it the better.

Once you have this and worked out how many times you have very similar conditions in all the other stats you keep (“filtering” options in modern spreadsheets make this far easier) you can then calculate a correlation.

So lets say you have say 12 waxing days similar and 12 waning days similar and 1 new and full moon that are similar. Clearly you need to keep on keeping stats for a correlation for full and new moons you will need at least 10 comparable days when all the other stats are similar to get data that makes sense.

For each day you have comparable physical stats you need to have dreams stats plus dream content stats. When you have these lined up you can compare how each of these days are similar.

Thus lets say you dream more on waxing days, say you have 2.32 dreams a night on these days and then show that most are “normal” or “fear” dreams. You then compare these to waning days where you have only 1.2 dreams a night, almost all “normal” dreams. There for on those days the moon phase affects you:

1.2 more dreams per every waxing period (11.6 days) then every waning period as long as conditions are the same or similar to those days when these dreams happened.

So now you can see how hard it is to get enough data to show this for a full or new moon, each of the full moons in the year will not have the same conditions, so to get 10 days of similar data you need probably at least 5 years of recording. I am certain you can do it, but it will take a lot of effort and even then the data is only relevant when conditions are similar. So really I am not sure what your aim is, other than showing to yourself that your dreams are psychologically impacted by the full moon, which is almost certainly a given anyway.

10 big dreaming myths

1. Everyone dreams

Not true. Some people can’t due to the fact they have brain damage or are on medication that inhibit the dreaming state. Some medical conditions cause a lessening of the REM or nREM state (and other dream states).

Almost all people do dream (including blind and deaf people), recall of dreams however is harder for some people. Lifestyle, medication, sleep time, desire to recall and even personality can effect this.

2. People go crazy when they don’t sleep/dream

Yes possible, but very unlikely. Generally go without sleep for long enough and you will go into a coma or be hospitalized and they will force you to sleep. When sleep deprived you will do more risky things and be inhibited. The more sleep deprived, the more likely it is to cause a problem.

Insomnia is a real problem for which a GP or sleep doctor is needed to assist.

3. Animals don’t dream

Completely false, Google scholar “mammalian dream states”. Dolphins, Rats, Dogs and Cats (most dog/cats owner can tell you this), Rabits, Cows, etc. Even Snakes and reptiles have a state their mind enters into when asleep, they do not enter a coma. It can be reasonably assumed almost all animals with a brain and central nervous system dreams. Weather or not this indicated consciousness or if they are aware of dreams is a argument for the ages.

4. Lucid dreaming will make me X

Go mad, be sexier, scared, silly, stupid, etc. Most of these claims are false. Lucid dreaming is completely safe and almost always leads to the dreamer having a awesome nights sleep, nothing more.

5. You can get trapped in dreams

Not true, but you can have a “false awakening” attack were you wake up again and again but are still actually asleep. These dreams are unnervingly real and look and feel real, its often not till you are awake you notice the difference. If you suffer from them, best keep a log of the differences you notice. The movie Groundhog Day reminds me very much of someone having a false awakening attack.

Reoccurring dreams are also an issue, best thing to do is to attempt lucid dreaming and or seek professional advice from a GP or sleep doctor.

6. My dreams tell me the future

Unlikely. I published a post about this here. Generally most claims of dream prediction have turned out to be false. Its possible, but VERY unlikely. Actual credited accounts backed up by multiple independent people are completely nonexistent.

7. I can talk to God/Spirit/Goddess/Jesus/etc. in my dream

This is completely YOUR experience and for you it is truth and for everyone else it is, well you talking to your mind. In reality that god/etc you talked you is really your own subconscious and thats fine, talking to your subconscious is awesome and I am glad you do it, but claiming to anyone but yourself that this is the TRUE WORD OF GOD is likely to get resounding bouts of laughter. Also note you REALLY DONT have to do anything this God/Spirit etc tells you to do, really, make these decisions with your waking mind with evidence and support and counsel of your partner or friends or whoever.

8. I can die while dreaming

Yes you can, but not from dreaming in of itself. Stroke, heart attack, hit by an asteroid, suffocate on your pillow, all possible while dreaming. Its not the dreaming state that kills you though.

9. Waking a sleepwalker is dangerous

Not true, wake that sucker for their safety. People have done crazy things like get in the car, get milk from the shop, cook dinner and leave the stove on while asleep. If you know your a sleepwalker and live alone, use some method to wake yourself, such as a alarm that goes off when you open your bedroom door, a bell tied to your feet, something.  Problem sleepwalkers should also consult a GP or sleep doctor.

10. Dreams are inspirational

Yes, yes they are.

Are “invader” dreams ghosts?

Neurologists like Blanke (1,2) and Chenye (3) call them “invader dreams”, others refer to them as False Awakenings and OBE. They all fit into Night terrors. But are the thing we see ghosts or spirits?

The answer is actually maybe. Scientifically they are things that only exist within our mind, they are things our mind make up, for whatever reason (some reasons are supposed in the International Journal of Dream Research ( http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/ojs/index.php/IJoDR/index ). Its most likely a combination of psychological and neurological reasons. But they feel real. That feeling is hard to argue with no matter how much scientific evidence there is. The thing is that people do not like their feelings and experiences dismissed, they “know” its real, even if there is a scientific explanation from a guy with letters after their name, its still “real”. Psychologically this makes sense, we will trust our own epistemological sense quicker than anything else. We have and experience to back our claim on, to look at it any other way seems odd.

The thing is that belief and science are not mutually exclusive. We believe things because we are human, we need stories to make sense of life. We like the idea of a scientific explanation, but we want a way of dealing with it for ourselves. A means to look at these experiences that help us know that they happened and are real experiences. There is no reason why we can’t believe that they are ghosts, spirits, gods, etc. As long as we make sure we know these are our individual experiences and when telling other people about them saying something like “My experience was like this, I know the scientific explanation is this, but I still believe in X anyway”.

1. Blanke O, Landis T, Spinelli L, and Seeck M. Out-of-body experience and autoscopy of neurological origin. Brain, 127: 243–258, 2004.
2. Blanke O, Mohr C, Michel CM, Pascual-Leone A, Brugger P, Seeck M, et al. Linking out-of-body experience and self processing to mental own-body imagery at the temporoparietal junction. Journal of Neuroscience, 25: 550–557, 2005.
3. Cheyne, J. A. and Girard, T.A. Cognitive Neurophysiology, 9,4, pp. 281-300, 2004.