Electric Dreams

A Dreamer's Glossary

Brenda Giguere 

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Giguere, Brenda (1995 October 23). A Dreamer's Glossary. Electric Dreams 2(13). Retrieved July 31, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www/dreamgate.com/electric-dreams  

Dream research has terminology all its own. Anything you might read regarding sleep, consciousness, and dreams makes use of such terms, as well as terms from the scientific world in general. Many of these you probably already know; others you might be fairly sure of, and perhaps a few are still a bit fuzzy and in need of clarification. (True enough, you don't need to know that a standard deviation is the square root of the variance to appreciate an article about dreams. This glossary does not get quite that carried away with itself).

I am hopeful that what follows is, at least, worth noting as a quick review for you more sophisticated dream enthusiasts. To this end, here is an enlightening guide to terminology ranging from the perhaps painfully obvious, to that which you might otherwise bump into in the dark (ouch). Since it is not a long list and many terms are closely interrelated, the terms are presented in an instructive, conceptual manner rather than in alphabetical order:

* * * * * * * *

lucid dreaming: that state of dreaming sleep where conscious awareness has occurred; awareness one is dreaming while dreaming. Learnable. Usually in REM sleep.

REM sleep: rapid eye movement stage of sleep where most
dreaming occurs. So called because eyes, not subject to sleep paralysis, can follow action of dream.

sleep cycle: human sleep alternates between REM and non-REM states in roughly 90 minute intervals; each interval is called a sleep cycle.

sleep stages: sleep is divided into stages 1 through 4, each characterized by specific measures and descriptions of brain activity.

beta waves: range 13-25 cycles per second, dominant electrical brain waves of conscious mind while awake and alert, complex thinking. Like other brain waves, can be measured on an electroencephalograph.

alpha waves: range 8-12 CPS, dominant waves of relaxation, meditation, relaxed alertness. Facilitates inspiration, fast assimilation of facts, heightened memory. Less than half an epoch (usually 30 seconds) of continuous alpha rhythm indicates sleep onset.

theta waves: range 4-7 CPS, dominant waves of deep meditation and reverie, associated with creativity, high suggestibility, and flashes of inspiration. Free-form thinking linked to the non-conscious mind.

delta waves: range 0.5-3 CPS, dominant waves of deep, dreamless sleep.

K-complexes: high amplitude slow waves, appear in Stage 2 sleep.

sleep spindles: augments and decreases in a range of 15-18 CPS; these rhythms appear in Stage 2 sleep. The most clear-cut index of sleep onset.

cerebral cortex: extensive outer layer of brain's gray matter largely responsible for higher brain functions including sensation, voluntary muscle movement, thought, reasoning, and memory. Divided into two hemispheres, separated by bridge of nervous tissue called the corpus callosum.

EEG: electroencephalogram; measures waves of electrical activity of the brain.

EOG: electrooculogram; measures eyelid movements associated with eyeball movements.

EMG: electromyogram; measures electrical activity of muscles.

polygraph: machine that simultaneously records changes in various physiological processes.

non-REM: slow wave sleep with no rapid eye movements.

cholinergic-aminergic system: chemical system in brain, responsible for sleeping and waking. Acetylcholine builds up during non-REM sleep and its release initiates REM sleep; it is held in check during wakefulness by the amines in the body (norepinephrine and serotonin).

night terror: abrupt awakening usually within first two hours of sleep during Stage 3 or 4; sleeper experiences sense of terror. Not generally described by sleeper as a dream, but rather images or sensations. Usually described physiologically as a disorder of arousal, a minor abnormality in the brain's sleep-wake mechanisms. Non-REM.

nightmare: quite different from night terror; sometimes called dream anxiety attack, usually during last three hours of sleep during a REM period. Almost always a long, intense dream. Less pulse increase and blood pressure increase than with night terrors.

sleep paralysis: motor inhibition of legs, arms, and trunk during REM sleep; keeps sleeper from physically acting out the dream.

volition: the act or an instance of making a conscious choice or decision, as in a lucid dream.

somnambulism: sleepwalking; not associated with REM sleep.

sleeptalking: vocalization during sleep; not associated with REM sleep.

OBE: Out of Body Experience; the convincing sense one has separated in some fashion from one's body, generally thought of by scientists as a specific set of phenomena occurring during a vivid dream probably triggered by decreased awareness of weight or gravity on body during shift from waking to sleeping.

dream ego: the representation or sensation of oneself experienced by a dreamer in the dream.

hypnagogic, hypnopompic: periods of non-REM imagery and sensations, associated with sleep onset and awakening respectively.

cognition: mental process of knowing, including awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.

mentation: mental activity, thinking. Not limited to waking state.

somatic sensations: touch sensations; anything felt on the body.

sensory modality: any of several organic means by which the brain obtains information about the environment; the sensory modality employed in reading is sight.

kinesthetic: sense of body movement.

olfactory: sense of smell.

auditory: sense of hearing.

gustatory: sense of taste.

modeling: normal mental functioning whereby a person experiences a construct of the environment based on information from the senses combining with memory to create one's sense of reality. Occurs during sleep with far diminished outside information and other variations.

perception: recognition and interpretation of sensory stimuli based chiefly on memory; the neurological processes by which such recognition and interpretation are effected.

hypothesis: an educated guess about a relationship between variables that is then tested empirically.

theory: a set of statements that summarizes and organizes existing information about a phenomenon, serving as explanation, and serving as basis for predictions to be tested empirically.

field research: research occuring anywhere but in scientific laboratory.

experiment: a research procedure in which some factor is varied, all else is held constant, and some result is measured.
survey: descriptive method in which subjects are asked series of questions or respond to series of statements about some topic.

anecdotal evidence: evidence from individual case that illustrate a phenomenon; can be helpful in various ways but cannot be relied upon exclusively.

pseudoscience: any field of inquiry attempting to associate with true science relying exclusively on anecdotal evidence; is deliberately too vague to be adequately tested.

biochemistry: the study of chemical substances and vital processes occuring in living organisms.

psychology: the science that deals with mental processes and behavior.

psychiatry: the branch of medicine dealing with diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders.

psychophysiology: the study of correlations between the mind, behavior, and bodily mechanisms.

neurology: the medical science dealing with the nervous system's functions and disorders.

MILD: Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming; effective mental technique developed by LaBerge to induce lucid dreaming at will.

WILD: Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming; going directly into lucid
dream from waking state.

oneironaut: explorer of the dream world.



American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
(Third Edition)

Dreamtime & Dreamwork; chapter: Nightmares: Terrors of the Night, by Franklin Galvin and Ernest Hartmann

The Dreaming Brain, by J. Allan Hobson

The Chemistry of Conscious States, by J. Allan Hobson

Lucid Dreaming, by Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D.

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, by Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D. and Howard Rheingold
Accelerated Learning, by Colin Rose

Research in Psychology: Methods and Design, by C. James Goodwin