Understanding And Using Dreams To Learn And To Forget| Huberman Lab

Key Takeaways

  • Sleep is broken up into 90-minute blocks called “ultradian rhythm”
  • Slow-wave (non-REM) sleep takes place earlier in the night
  • As sleep progresses throughout the night, REM sleep takes up more time
  • Things that happen in slow0wave sleep: motor learning, motor skill learning, details about specific events
  • Lack of REM sleep tends to make people emotionally irritable – we tend to catastrophize small things because we can’t unlearn the emotionality of events
  • The mechanisms of Ketamine and PCP bear striking resemblance to patterns of REM sleep and are sometimes used as therapeutics
  • “Sleep deprivation isn’t just deprivation of energy or deprivation of immune function, it’s deprivation of self-induced therapy every time we go to sleep.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman
  • New research highlights that it may be more important to get a consistent amount of sleep versus the hours of sleep each night
  • To improve sleep quality: limit fluids before bed, perform resistance exercise during the day, limit alcohol, and marijuana

Introduction

Dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance.

In this episode of Huberman Lab, Dr. Huberman discusses the two major kinds of dreams and the sorts of learning and unlearning they are used for, as well as the utility of REM-associated dreams, and their similarity to various trauma treatments such as ketamine and EMDR.

Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab)

Overview Of Sleep Cycles: Ultradian Rhythm

  • Sleep is generally broken up into 90-minute cycles called the ultradian rhythm
  • Earlier in the night, we have more slow-wave sleep (non-REM) and less REM sleep
  • For every 90 minute cycle, REM occupies more time – the more sleep you get, the more REM you have

Neuromodulator Refresher

  • Acetylcholine: tends to modify and amplify brain circuits associated with attention and focus
  • Norepinephrine: tends to modify circuits associated with alertness and desire to move
  • Serotonin: released and modifies circuits associated with bliss and remaining still
  • Dopamine: released and associated with amplification of pursuing goals, pleasure, and reward

Lucid Dreams

  • Lucid dreaming: dreaming in sleep but being aware that you’re dreaming and, in some cases, directing the dream
  • Occurs in about 20% of people
  • Can cause people to not feel as rested and can disrupt sleep’s restorative effects

Slow Wave Sleep (Non-REM Sleep)

  • Characterized by brain activity in which the brain is metabolically active
  • No acetylcholine in non-REM state of sleep, meaning there’s no real focus
  • Active neuromodulators: norepinephrine, serotonin
  • If you are going to sleep walk, this is the cycle in which it would happen
  • Motor learning (e.g., learning a new dance, exercise, etc.) is most likely to take place in slow wave sleep
  • Slow wave sleep is also important in cognitive information – details, spelling, etc.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep

  • REM sleep occurs more as the night of sleep progresses
  • The circuitry involved in conscious eye movement is active
  • We’re entirely laid out and paralyzed  
  • Paralysis during sleep can spill into waking – this can even come with hallucinations – a lot of alien abduction recaps include both of these traits
  • Our experience is hallucinatory during this time
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine are absent
  • REM sleep is one of the few times in our life where norepinephrine is absent so there’s no chemical manifestation of fear and anxiety
  • This period of sleep allows us to review things that happened or troubling situations in the absence of fear and anxiety
  • Nightmares probably take place in slow-wave sleep
  • Lack of REM sleep tends to make people emotionally irritable – we tend to catastrophize small things because we can’t unlearn the emotionality of events
  • REM sleep solidifies associations and gives things meanings – with a lack of REM sleep, even simple things like the word “the” looks misspelled and distorted
  • REM sleep eliminates meanings that don’t matter so we don’t blow things out of proportion – we take events of the day and uncouple the expression of emotionality
  • “Sleep deprivation isn’t just deprivation of energy or deprivation of immune function, it’s deprivation of self-induced therapy every time we go to sleep.” – Dr. Andrew Huberman

REM Sleep, Trauma, Psychology

  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) EMDR: psychotherapy designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories
  • During EMDR, patients are guided to perform lateral eye movements mimicking REM sleep (therefore turning off norepinephrine), allowing patients to access traumatic events without the emotion
  • EMDR is most successful for single event trauma, like a car crash, robbery, etc. – not prolonged experiences like childhood abuse, divorce

Uses Of Ketamine & PCP To Mimic REM

  • The mechanisms of Ketamine and PCP bear striking resemblance to patterns of REM sleep
  • Ketamine and PCP both function to disrupt NMDA receptor in the brain
  • Ketamine prevents the learning of emotions soon after trauma
  • Ketamine is kept in some emergency rooms and sometimes administered to people who witness a loved one traumatically dying in front of them
  • Ketamine is about becoming removed from the emotion of an experience

Improving Sleep Quality

  • Getting a regular amount of sleep each night might be more important than the duration
  • Consistently getting the same amount of sleep is better than getting more hours some nights and fewer others
  • Limit drink a lot of fluid right before sleeping
  • Resistance exercise can induce a greater amount of slow-wave sleep involved in motor learning and acquisition of fine details
  • Alcohol and marijuana hinder deep restorative sleep
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Notes By Maryann

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