Follow Your Dreams: REM Sleep, Intuition and Oprah Magazine

I’ve learned to trust my “gut feeling” in sticky situations. Yet how is it that my body’s natural response is smarter than my well-educated rational mind?!

This month, O: The Oprah Magazine answers this question in a fascinating article, “The Science of Intuition: An eye-opening guide to your sixth sense,” by Annie Murphy Paul (August 2011).  Turns out, there are legitimate scientific reasons why our gut is a smarty-pants!

More than meets the eye:
Did you know that our eyes see a lot more than we can conciously process? In a study, individuals viewing fearful images for 33 miliseconds didn’t have enough time to consciously process the images, yet their amygdalas (the area of the brain resonpsible for emotional processing) were activated none-the-less.

If you feel nervous but don’t know why, you may have spotted something of concern so quickly that you didn’t even realize it!

Dreams know best:
The article gives big props to sleep and dreaming – explaining that REM Sleep plays a big role in problem solving and decision making.

During the day, we take in a TON of thoughts and emotions. REM Sleep is believed to help sort through the junk-yard of stimuli for the hidden gems.  REM Sleep activates the emotional part of the brain so “things that are most important on a gut level are prioritized.”

Have you ever awoken from a dream and had an “aha” moment? In a recent study, two groups of people performed a gambling experiment with a hidden underlying rule. One group previewed the task, got a full night’s sleep and returned the next morning. The other group previewed the task, went about their day and returned 12 hours later (without sleep).  Twice as many people who’d “slept on it” figured out the hidden trick than the group that stayed up.

It is believed that dreams help us prioritize what’s important and disloge things stuck in our conscious brains.  REM Sleep helps us to see solutions that are unapparent to our logical minds.

So, if you’re stuck on a problem, try sleeping on it. To help foster a dream-solution connection, researchers suggest writing down the problem before bed, to increase chances of your intuintion addressing the problem in your dreams.


Brain Bugs:
Most fascinating for my narcolepsy blog, the article warns that the subconscious is flawed too, because our brains are old!

“Our brains run on what amounts to a 100,000-year-old operating system,” explains Dean Buonomano PhD to Oprah Magazine, “The results? Our intellectual equipment has it’s flaws. For example,we’re more afraid of being killed by strangers (rough odds: 1 in 100,000) than by cars (1 in 10,000).”

Scientists believe our brain’s ancient impusles haven’t caught up to modern times, resulting in some mental glitches or “brain bugs.”

As a person with vivid dreams (a symptom of narcolepsy), this so fascinating because I often dream about an intruder breaking into my house/bedroom. I hardly fear this possibility when awake, but once asleep and dreaming, my 100,000 year old brain rewinds time to address the very primitive scenerio passed down from our earliest ancestors.


  1. Gail on August 3, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Fascinating! I will try writing down ideas before sleeping.

  2. Made by Michelle on September 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    There's a lot of debate about the purpose of dreams, but I've always believed they were important. I kept a dream journal for a while, interpreted my dreams as best I could, and it really did help resolve issues.

    When my narcolepsy symptoms developed, though, I had way too many dreams to keep track of, and they all seemed too crazy to have any deeper meaning. But now that I'm on Xyrem, I'm back to manageable dreams, and I'm so glad I can enjoy dreaming again.

    I, too, have lots of dreams about murderers chasing me, even though it's not much of a fear when I'm awake. But I think in my case I just watch too much tv, lol.

  3. gadgetfitter on September 17, 2011 at 2:18 am

    I often try to think of my narcolepsy as a gift due to the fact I can "sleep on it" a lot quicker than most people. It can certainly help and has in the past (some times anyway). I once "came to" in the middle of explaining a complicated process in class that I'm sure I couldn't explain while awake. The teacher caught me snoozing and tried to put me on the spot. No one was more suprized than I! lol

Leave a Comment