RE: Anthropic dreams

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Thu Sep 18 2003 - 17:59:10 MDT

Mike Williams asked,
> Has anyone ever figured out why humans need to dream? When
> AI's achieve consciousness, will they require it too?

No one really knows why we need to dream. There are theories, but nothing
provable. It is not clear if we need to sleep, or if the overgrown human
brain simply makes up coherent interpretations of random neurons firing
during sleep.

I do know that sleep deprivation experiments show that there are different
symptoms associated with a lack of dream-sleep and a lack of non-dream
sleep. Dream deprivation causes waking hallucinations, paranoia, and other
mental problems. Regular non-dream sleep deprivation seems to be more
physical tiredness, inability to focus, sleepiness, etc. Thus, there are
specific symptoms of dream deprivation that are not attributed to sleep
deprivation. We do seem to need dreams and have specific symptoms when they
are lacking. The waking hallucinations almost imply that we need to dream
so much that we will do it even without sleep if necessary.

It also has been shown that if you skip a night of sleep, you will recover
with fewer hours of make-up sleep. That is, you won't sleep a total of
eight extra hours to replace the missing eight hours over the next few
nights. However, you will make up dream time that is missed. This also
implies some essential purpose or set amount of processing that must take

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