Constantly Keeping Track

Excerpts from "Sleep," Radiolab, May 25, 2007:

sticky-notes Robert Krulwich: Robert Stickgold has the theory that as you go through your day, your brain is constantly keeping track of emotional content. Your brain is going to flag that stuff, It says, Oh, I need to remember so I can work on it later. I’m going to put a sticky on this one.

Robert Stickgold: So if it puts a sticky on everything that’s hard during the day, then all the brain has to do when it’s creating a dream is go and grab stickies.

Jad Abumrad: Stickgold thinks he’s seeing the outline if the dream-making process here. It starts really simply at the very beginning of sleep, right after you fall asleep, with the replay. This, he suspects, is just the brain emptying out its stickies.

Robert Krulwich: Are you at all puzzled by the super-duper, Technicolor, extraordinarily cinematic qualities of some of these [dreams]? Because if it were just an everyday brain function to sort of make sense of the world and allow you to make new connections, you wouldn’t really need quit the movie quality.

Robert Stickgold: When we talk about dreams, what seems to come into dreams are memories, concepts, relationships, associations that have a strong emotional flavor and — I’m guessing from the data — need a full-blown orchestration to be properly processed.

“Sleep is the annihilation of consciousness, so it’s a terrible time in which everything disappears — the universe and yourself with it. I think if people didn’t sleep and didn’t have the unconsciousness of sleep, they possibly wouldn’t even realize that consciousness is an enormous gift.”

~ Dr. Giulio Tunoni