To Sleep, Perchance To Game

By John Walker on November 9th, 2009 at 6:23 pm.

You can almost see the Tetris in the eyes.

Briefly mentioned in The Sunday Papers was a story about how dreaming can improve your gaming. It’s a thought I wanted to expand upon further, pulling together a few stories that relate, and pondering some thoughts on the relationship between gaming and sleeping. I do this with no expertise, and a personal hatred of sleep itself.

Sleep is well loved. Most people either adore it or crave it. But I consider it an evolutionary failing, a dependency that wastes my time, and a source for only trouble. And I include dreams. If there were a button I could press that would switch off all dreams forever, I’d hammer on it with a fist. But I’d likely be a fool, because since it is an evolutionary failing, it’s necessary. It’s just, no one’s exactly sure why, and what for.

There’s some wonderful theories. And some remarkable facts. You need to sleep if you want your proteins to fold properly, it appears. And whatever restorative purposes it may possess, it seems that they accompanying dreaming is equally as important. What’s perhaps more surprising is the role that videogames have played in the study of this phenomenon.

Dreams have been much ignored by science for a long time, beyond the realms of psychoanalysis. Considered to often to be the territory of psychics their woo-woo brethren is was rather improperly under-studied. That’s been changing in the last couple of decades, with one of the more significant papers published focusing, rather peculiarly, on Tetris.

One of the reasons dreams have received so little scrutiny is their apparently random nature, making them extremely difficult to study in a useful way. But Robert Stickgold’s paper demonstrated that there were simple ways to control what people dreamed about. By getting participants to play Tetris during the day, an approximate 50% (different reports state different numbers, unhelpfully) would report dreams of falling Tetris blocks. But you already knew that, right? As Stickgold said in an interview with NPR’s RadioLab, he published one of the most significant papers on dream studies despite its stating something that everybody already knew. Play enough Tetris and you’ll see it in your sleep.

As the Scientific American report of the study mentions, it was Stickgold who had previously published the paper demonstrating that dreaming plays a significant role in our ability to learn. This is a subject also studied by Giulio Tononi, who has demonstrated the ways in which some extraordinary activity during sleep can help us to sort information learned during the day, get rid of the noise, and leave us with more focused information in the morning. It’s a theme picked up once more by Stickgold and others at a recent conference, one team in particular using the game Doom.

It’s a natural consequence of all these previous studies, these discoveries that both dreams can be pre-decided if enough time is focused on an activity when awake, and indeed that in dreaming our brain is performing this sort of peculiar defragging of the day’s information. Like a jumbled hard drive our heads are packed with new information, but not in a concise or clear pattern, with great amounts of wasted space. When we go to sleep we seem to run a defragmentation program, as information is passed back and forth between the hippocampus and neocortex, leaving us in the morning with the arranged information. Combine this all and you’ve got a theory that implies sleep and dreaming will improve your skills at a given activity.

Which seems to work with Doom. By getting volunteers to play Doom for a couple of days, then during their second night in the sleep lab interrupting their REM sleep to find out what they were dreaming about, Brazilian researchers Sidarta Ribeiro and André Pantoja of the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal were able to discern who was having the most Doom-related dreams. Then by comparing their ability at the game immediately after sleep with that from before, they looked at who showed significant improvement. The results aren’t perhaps as clear-cut as some might like, but there appears to be evidence that at least some dreaming about Doom caused increased ability.

However, it seems that dreaming too much about Doom had a more negative effect. The seven players who showed the most improvement at the game had significantly higher Doom-based dream intrusion than the seven who dreamt about Doom the least. But those who reported the greatest amount of shotgun and demon dreams, the remaining eight, showed a more modest improvement.

“If you’re too obsessed about something, you’re dreaming about blood and monsters, you can’t do well,” was the thought from Ribeiro when reporting the results. As New Scientist reports, our old friend Stickland was at the same Chicago conference reporting some preliminary results showing that these improvements don’t even require REM sleep, but just a short, lighter nap to be effective.

Perhaps some caution should be interjected here. As New Scientist concludes,

“Neither study proves that dreams cause improvement. Ribeiro admits that the people who dreamed about Doom most could simply have been those most motivated to improve. But he says dreaming and learning must be intimately linked.”

However, when a layman like me looks at all these various studies there does seem to be an interesting pattern, that while perhaps not proven, does imply the possibility that dreaming can be a learning and refining phase for the brain.

Clearly I’m cobbling this together without any academic knowledge about the subject, but I encourage you to follow the links above, and the links they in turn contain, to read around the subject, especially here. And for a lighter, more accessible approach I heartily endorse listening to the episode of NPR’s RadioLab that focuses on this subject, including interviews with Stickland. And you can watch Tononi lecture about the purpose of sleep here.

I detest sleep. I resent it. But it’s been interesting to see some more involved reasons why I should welcome it. I’ve always considered dreams an opportunity for my brain to mess with me, largely unpleasant or sinister affairs when remembered. I’d still likely press that imaginary button, but the results could be catastrophic, it seems. It remains an evolutionary failing, a dependency developed by the first land dwellers they should have learned to shake off years ago. But I’ll concede it has its purposes, and perhaps even offer the opportunity to be a better games player. Perhaps I should spend my evenings focused on playing as a healer, then see if I can shake off Kieron’s insults the following morning.

PS. This post on my own blog provides an almost entirely irrelevant companion piece to this post.

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108 Comments »

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    Arathain says:

    I can understand not liking sleep. I personally enjoy it, but lord, it takes up so much time!

    Even the most basic of evolutionary theory tells us that it has to be really important, or we wouldn’t be doing so darned much of it, considering how vulnerable it makes any creature. To the point that our own body basically drugs us if we don’t.

  2. sinister agent says:

    You, sir, are a madman. Sleeping is the best thing since that time I had cheesecake and sex in the same day.

    Although I will admit that my brain also delights in messing me up at night. But still. The whole subject is a fascinating one, I really do wonder if we’ll ever crack a reliable understanding of dreams.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Not to mention that you could even get all three of those. I mean.. sleep happens, right?

  3. Skinlo says:

    Sleep is literally the best thing possible. That feeling of just waking up, knowing you don’t have to do anything in the day, then going back to sleep again is one of the best things possible. I would happily spend 18 hours a day sleep if possible.

    • Skinlo says:

      Yes, I used the word possible too many times.

    • Lambo says:

      Wahey! You sir, have my respect.

    • sinister agent says:

      While we’re on the subject, does anyone else have a deep-seated aversion to waking other people off? I hate doing it and can count on one hand the number of times I have (deliberately, anyway). It’s little different in my view than slapping someone’s half-eaten sandwich out of their hands while they’re eating.

    • sinister agent says:

      Not only did I reply to the wrong bit here, like a pillock, but I also made the deeply troubling slip of “waking other people off” instead of “up”.

      Help will be sought.

    • noom says:

      I am gladdened that “off” was the typo there, and not “waking”

    • Mark says:

      @noom This had me laughing like a madman as my supervisor was walking by my office.

  4. Lambo says:

    Now, at the moment I don’t really want to get into the dream debate regarding their purposes etc. I do however want to mention that I have never actually met someone who disliked sleep. I’m sure lots of people do, but I never once considered that its something to detest. I guess it is a biological weakness, but I personally love sleep.

    The thought of not having that warm, fuzzy, oblivion, while lost in my sheets at the end of the day… that is a genuinely terrifing thought for me. Maybe its my ingrained lazyness, but having to be doing stuff with no respite all day and night, with no time to just completely and utterly lose myself in eithre nothingness, or a fantstical abstract reality (with veeeery rare, in my case, nightmares) is just a depressing thought.

    In a side note. I’m not that fond of the concept of neverending nothingness after death, I just realised that contradiction within myself now, I actually prefer the thought of some sort of “afterlife”.

    But yeah. Sleep, dreams, lazyness. Maybe its just bed that I love more than the sleep. But that gorgeous fuzzy feeling you get after waking up because of a alarm, then knowing you don’t have to get up. That snuggle back into the sheets, back into your fantasies. Thats one of my all time favourite things in the world.

    I guess this is all unrelated and out of place a bit here, but I found this to be a good thought provoking ramble on my part. Thanks for the article.

    • hide says:

      Sure sleep is a good thing. But what if we needed only 3 hours of sleep by day ?
      We would still can enjoy all of it good things but no more big timewarp in our life. That would be the best way to extend life !

    • Lambo says:

      That is a nice point. But just for clarification purposes. I personally am so lazy that I enjoy the lenght of sleep as it is now seeing as it means I only have to do roughly half the amount of stuff I otherwise would be obliged to do. Thats just my mindset. Although I also don’t want to do nothing but sleep, there is tons of stuff I really want to do and achieve. I think being awake that much more would end up adding too much fluff as opposed to time I would spend things I personally feel are worth doing.

      For a very very basic example. Imagine how much longer you would have to spend working at your job each day, but you probably wouldn’t be payed more than you are now. Whereas, think of all the things you do during a week that you personally think are “worthwhile” do they take up much time at all?

    • noom says:

      The other solution to this problem is the much more sensible one of slowing the rotation of the earth to make days 28 hours long. If anybody knows any scientists, tell them to make this happen.

  5. DMcCool says:

    Sorry Walker but it seems, well, that everyone disagrees with you.

    Actually I can get disliking sleep; as lovely as it is, it IS a huge waste of time. Just think what we could accomplish in that time!

    But Dreams? dreams? Unless you suffer from regular nightmares, what could you possibly have against dreams? No matter what happens in my life I always have the freedom, the truth the playfulness and unknowable wonder in my dreams every night. They provide everything a great computer game can, basically.

    If your dreams aren’t that great, learn to lucid dream. I’m not capable of it but I think anyone can learn and the few times I HAVE had lucid dreams, well. Experiances worth living for.

    In my experiance the problem with dreams is that they can be so intoxinatingly good you just want to be in them all the time.

  6. Ansem says:

    Sleep is a blight upon humanity! I enjoy sleeping, but the fact that I know I am wasting so much time whenever I go to sleep pretty much robs me of most of that pleasure. I spend most nights awake until I am absolutely spent, since I can’t bring myself to go to bed a minute before. I have too many things to do and too little time to do them in to waste time asleep!

  7. Vinraith says:

    I’m with John on this one, I resent sleep taking up a third of my life. I don’t really understand people that don’t, just think of what you could do with all that time you spend unconscious.

    As to games and dreams, I distinctly recall having a dream as a kid in which i played an entire 5 hour game of Empire: Deluxe in my head. I’ve no idea if it made me better at Empire (which I was playing a lot at the time, needless to say) but it was certainly unusual.

  8. mejobloggs says:

    Sleep annoys me.

    I never want to go to bed, but once I’m asleep, I never want to get out of bed

    Unfortunately I have to get up fairly early for work so the second part never works, leaving me zombie like throughout the day :(

  9. pepper says:

    I dont like sleeping either, usually just 5/6 hours a night on weekdays, i dream everyday, often about games or other things i enjoy doing. I dont mind the dreaming though, havent had nightmares in years. The biggest problem for me with sleep is getting into it. When i lay down in bed at night i start thinking more then when im doing a activity, and thus am wildly awake as new thoughts go by. Anyone know how to get asleep easily without having to lay down for 1-2 hours?

    • Lilliput King says:

      You could try getting to know Miss Palm.

    • Lambo says:

      I used to also take ages going to sleep. But then I just used that time thinking to think about things I really enjoy, pretty much “day dreaming”.

      I also began to enjoy how I sorted out tons of stuff in my head in that “thinking time” and how most of my really intelligent and thought out trains of thought came from that time. Once I began to enjoy not falling asleep, I began to get to sleep much easier. Try it. Its a win win. You eithre solve your original problem of slow falling asleep, or you get stuck with enjoying not falling asleep. Hope it helps.

      I think I’ll sort out learning to lucid dream, that way I can have the nice day-dreaming time before sleep, and consistant great dreams during it.

    • pepper says:

      The problem with that is that i then want to instantly work out those solutions(programming/3D stuff) and thus keeping me awake. I do enjoy the thinking time, but i travel 4 hours a day, on bike/walking and in the train, so that is usually used to sort my thoughts(sometimes snooze in the train). Another thing is that when im thinking at night i also become aware of the current state, and thus interrupt the almost-asleep state of the whatever it is that is controlling those functions.

      I’l try it a bit different in about 25 minutes, problem is im programming a network client for flightsimulator now and i just dont want to stop….

  10. _Nocturnal says:

    I’m okay with sleep. It’s that day-and-night cycle thing that I hate in my guts.

  11. Lilliput King says:

    “If your dreams aren’t that great, learn to lucid dream.”

    I need to get in on whatever this is.

    Also, I stopped playing Eve because I was dreaming about it too much, and it was becoming peculiar.

    • Psychopomp says:

      It’s like conscious dreaming, to summarize it crudely.

      If I remember correctly, it also leaves you prone to sleep paralysis. As someone who suffers from *that* regularly, I cannot recommend lucid dreaming.

    • DMcCool says:

      A Lucid dream is basically a dream when you are aware you are dreaming…its much more real, powerful, and you have more control over it than normal. You actually get your agency back and can often just go and do whatever you want. It takes practise not to just wake up the moment you realise you are dreaming, of course, and even getting to that point in the first place can also take practise. Lucid dreaming is sort of like being on the most psycadelic powerful drugs imaginable but also totally safe. Its like turning your mind into the ultimate playground.

      The way to learn to lucid dream starts with remembering your dreams, writing them down as soon as you wake up. The better you get at recollecting that dream state and those dream memories, the easier it’ll be to slip into lucid dreaming.
      The other half of it is the self-realisation in your dreams. Some people have things they try to check: for instance writing something on your hand. If you remember to check this in your dream you’ll find its not there or all garbled up. The classic I bet you already know about it pincing yourself – doesn’t work in dreams so that is one way to realise.
      Another one is turning an electric light on or off – electric lights do not work in dreams. This is actually true, I guess the mind can’t simulate that fast a total change in lighting. Lightswitches just won’t work.
      The last one is digital clocks, or pieces of writing, familiar numbers. These will appear all messed up and confused in a dream. The thought is a bit freaky but when you couple it with the fact that you have total control over your own dreams if you know you are dreaming, then it becomes less freaky.

      The few times I’ve lucid dreamed have been due to these techniques and chance. I know that if you practise them you can lucid dream pretty much at will.

    • Serondal says:

      Lucid dreaming (Which is something I’ve done ever since a child because my father told me to when I was younger :P I have nightmares every night without fail and when complaining to my father about it he told me just to take control of the dream and do what I wanted to do not what the monsters ect wanted to do. Once I got the hang of it I could turn a nightmare into a good dream or just wake myself up if that failed by focusing on my breathing. For example if I have a dream I’m drowning I can step back and feel myself still breathing in reality and focus on that to either wake up or just keep swiming under the water while I breath easily :P ) is where you are aware you’re dreaming and have some sort of control over the dream or not. I think the basic thing is that you are aware what you’re seeing isn’t real and that you’re dreaming.

      This is one of the reasons I love going to sleep so much. I have total control over my dreams most of the time which allows me to pretty much do whatever I please when I’m asleep. For example I had a dream the other day tornados were going to destroy my house (like 400 of them) and instead of letting the nightmare play itself out I instead raised my hands and willed the storms to stop and they did, so I carried on with the good part of that dream :P

      Sometimes I’m aware I’m having a nightmare but for whatever reason I can’t will anything to stop, I have no control over anything. In these cases I generally wake myself up by rocking myself back and forth and trying to open my eyes OR by shocking myself awake. I can’t really explain how I do that though :P I just works.

    • DMcCool says:

      Oh, on “sleep paralysis”, I suffer from that too. Its bloody horrible, but when it is connected with lucid dreaming, and as horrible as this is to say, when it happens again and again it loses its original terror and just becomes…very, very unpleasant. In my experiance sleep paralysis is more about posture than anything else; since I sorted out the way I sleep I haven’t had it.

    • Serondal says:

      As far as eletric lights not working in dreams I don’t know what studies have been done to confirm this but I know for a fact it isn’t true :P Eletric lights work in my dreams just fine, if they STOP working it is a sure sign that I’m about to have a nightmare :P Also I can read and write in dreams from time to time as well a text chat in online games I’m dreaming about playing :P Or if I dream about work I can read notes in my computer as well as type new ones in.

    • Serondal says:

      as far as sleep paralysis goes I have that too and often. Generally I hear or feel something behind me but since I had children I have a new horrible form of it! Now from time to time I will be laying there looking away from the door into the rest of my house and I will hear my children playing in the kitchen and laughing and destroying things but I will not be able to wake up and stop them. I know in my mind they’re getting into knives and stuff and wrapping plastic bags around their heads ect but there is nothing I can do to make myself get up and help them! When I finally do break out of it I wake up and no longer hear them. I go and check on them and they’re still sound asleep ;) One morning before getting up for work I had this happen 3 times in a row each time I started to fall asleep I’d get frozen like that.

    • DMcCool says:

      You can switch electric lights on an off? I’ve never heard of anyone being able to do that in a dream before, how strange. About the text thing, for me its ONLY digital alarm locks that don’t work. Don’t know why, everything else is fine but I’ve heard from others that words can get muddled up and confused in dreams. I guess different things work for different people.

      What about pinching, does that work (or to be more precise, not work) for you?

    • Serondal says:

      I’ve never actaully tried the cliche pinching myself :P Normally I can tell I’m dreaming by feeling myself breathing slowly through my mouth that is the tip off for me. sometimes I wake up or everything goes white and I’m still asleep but can’t see anything. If I relax from there I can go back to dreaming again and take control, it is very odd. Sometimes I can even be laying there and feel myself approaching sleep. There is a rushing sound that comes up around me and at that point I can wake up or allow myself to fall asleep. Strange enough at this point I can also use my mind to create classical music O.o

    • Taillefer says:

      I can also do the lights because I introduced it into my dreams myself. I wanted to check all these things out about what you’re not supposed to be able to do. So I purposefully added them into a dream I was having to check. I don’t think I tried pinching, even though that’s an obvious one. Will do that next.

    • DMcCool says:

      I find it interesting that these so called “rules” of lucid dreaming don’t apply to us all. I remember the first time i tried the light-switch thing, it was quite frightening at first, I was really willing the light to turn on, flicking it on and off but nothing changed.

      I just remembered my Number 1 personal way of moving into a lucid dream, one that I developed all by myself. Also by far the most fun!

      Flying!

      What I do is cross my legs (like I’m sitting crossed legged) but while standing up. Quite often I’ll have to flap my legs really fast to float properly, but I’ll never plummet to the ground. not in a dream. The more I practise in the dream the better and more confident I get, til I can just fly about everywhere, flapping my crossed legs like some absurdist bird.

      I’d be facinated to know if that works with anyone else, or if anyone else does it.

    • Serondal says:

      that’s actaully really strange because I fly in my dreams as well. It started off pretty much just like you only with my hands. I would hold my hands at my hips and flap them as fast as I could and it would allow me to kind of flutter along. For me this was a fear response in and attempt to escape a rabid dog or something the first few times but sooner or later became my most active mode of flying. Then as I got older I tried flying like super man (hands out and just go go go ) The first time I remember doing this was when I jumped out of a window and then started flying at the last possible second, skimming just a few fet along the ground :P Now though I can just take off and fly where I like in my dreams like a super hero or just jump really far. Also in the last few years I’ve learned to deal with a recuring nightmare I have. In the nightmare I’m driving a car over a bridge and it just ends and I fall into the river. Now though I’ve actaully been able to make the CAR fly with me at the wheel with total control :P It’s actually a lot of fun. Since I’ve been able to do this a few times I’ve stopped having those dreams all together, however I still have dreams from time to time where I lose control over the speed of the car right in front of a cop ;)

      The light switch thing used to be a sign of a really nasty nightmare coming on where all the lights in the house turn out except for a light in the basement. When I get down there of course there is some sort of monster (normally a werewolf or zombies)

    • Taillefer says:

      I’m more of a super hero flier than a flapper. But I have my hands by my side so I can feel the exhilaration of the wind on my face. An odd thing that sometimes happens when I fly, though, is that things I pass over turn into gold. With this, I flew over a field of long grass, soaring low to make it bend from the wind as I flew by, then it sprang back up as golden shoots, spreading glittering dust into the air. It was beautiful.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Hmm, from wiki’s description of sleep paralysis I guess I’ve had it a couple of times. It’s very distressing, but I just took it as a ‘funny turn’ and ignored it. Wouldn’t be pleasant to have it as a regular condition, though.

      All this stuff about lucid dreaming begins to sound vaguely mystical, but heck, I’ll give writing my dreams down a go, when I actually have them, which isn’t often.

    • Serondal says:

      Every now and again I’ll have something beautiful happen in my dreams that is enough to make me cry but 99% of the time it is musical related. Like I can conduct an orchestra wtih my mind with total control over the music/volume/instrument/tone/tempo/speed ect. I have dreams also where I can play the guitar ect but in real life I have NONE of these skills :P

      Still flying over fields and having them turn gold sounds incredible, I’m envious ;) Normally in my flying dreams I stay close to the ground because when I get to high my fear of heights kicks in and I lose control over my dream for a second.

    • Serondal says:

      Lilliput King you should look up studies that have been done to attempt to prove lucid dreaming with shared dreaming : P (That is where two people dream together and both of them can remember the exact same thing.) I have shared dreams all the time but when I ask the other person if they remember having said dream they never do ; P So that doesn’t really count lol.

      Any one else ever had an extremely long dream and woke up and only 10-30 minutes had gone by since you went to sleep?

      Lucid dreaming isn’t really mystical it is just like day dreaming. All your doing is becoming awake enough to control your own mind you’re not casting any spells or finding out anything mysterious about the universe :P Anything you DO learn about the universe in a dream you should discount as fantasy. If you start to believe what your dreams tell you , you’ve probably got bigger problems then nightmares ;P lol

    • Taillefer says:

      I’m pretty sure a goblin told me the secrets of the universe as we sat down and brewed tea over a fire. But I can’t remember what he said.

    • ulix says:

      Yes. Lucid Dreaming. Probably the most awesome activity there is.

      I’ve had lucid dreams more often recently, probably because I read and thought a lot about the subject. I can’t invoke them at will, sadly.
      But studies in this direction do in fact point towards people being able to learn stuff while (lucid) dreaming. You could (for example) theoretically perfect your (golf) put, if you already know how to do it and practice consciously in your dreams.

      Man, I need to dream lucidly more often. The most effective technique seems to be to ask yourself if you’re awake or dreaming very often during the day, so you’ll be conditioned to ask that question to yourself while dreaming. Then you need some kind of reality-check. I always pinch myself (I know its a cliche, but it actually works), and if I don’t feel pain I know I’m dreaming.

      The real difficulty then is to stay asleep of course, because once you realize you’re dreaming and what you could do potentially you (or at least I) often get very nervous and excited, which leads to waking up.

      The best time to dream lucidly seems to be when you’ve already been awake in the morning for 30 minutes to an hour, and then go to sleep again for a few more hours.

      I’ve been flying in lucid dreams often as a child (it seems children have them more often), but not since then. If I’m cought in sleep-paralysis I usually try killing myself (no joke, used that technique since I was a child), it works in like 99% of the time.

    • ulix says:

      Also check out this book:

      “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” by Stephen Laberge

      Probably the only serious and scientific self-help book on lucid dreaming. Still have to read it. A friend of me has it and I’ve read in there 2 or 3 times and it already helped tremendously. I’ll order it right away ;)

    • Serondal says:

      I don’t know if anyone else has this when they sleep but I often have false memories when I’m dreaming. In other words I remember where I came from and things about my life that aren’t true in reality. Sometimes I can figure out I’m dreaming by realizing I’m not where I should be and that the things I remember don’t make sense or aren’t true. Noticing things that don’t make sense like signs that say “I has a cormb!” with a giant hamster eatting a corn on a Walmart. One thing that very often tips me off is I’m watching network tv and suddenly there is tons of nudity on it and I’m thinking “since when does ABC air stuff like this legally?!?!”

    • noom says:

      Not that I’ve any inclination to read anything on the subject, but I’m personally more inclined to believe that “lucid dreaming” involved no more consciousness than any other dreaming. It’s just you dreaming that you know you’re dreaming.

    • Taillefer says:

      “All that we see or seem.
      Is but a dream within a dream.”

      Somebody had to.

    • ulix says:

      The difference is, doom, that you can theoretically do everything and conjure everything into being when dreaming lucidly.

      Want to bang a hot chick? No problem, just create one. Want to fly to arround? No problem. Want to stop the dream (might be a nightmare, or you might be wondering how late it actually is)? No problem, just end it. The possibilities are endless.

  12. Serondal says:

    If I stay up all night playing a video game I do have dreams that night about either that game (playing it) or LIVING in the game (being the character) for example if I play a war game sometimes I have crazy fevered dreams about commanding an army and I really get very little sleep because it is so stressful. Sometimes even when I’m NOT playing games all day (Or at all) I’ll have dreams about playing games (It seems the longer I go without it the more I dream about it like some sort of addiction withdrawl lol)

    I think this test with Tetris should be combined with the suggestion that playing Tetris after something crazy happens can project you from PTSD by stopping your mind from abosrbing the horrible thing by making it focus on the falling blocks instead. IF you can dream about tetris or your best friend dieing I think you’d be better off with Tetris ! :P (as long as it includes the awsome music)

    • DMcCool says:

      The only times I ever have gaming dreams are in the run ups to big games I’m excited about, I’ll imagine the game somehow getting to me and me playing it for ages (then be disapointed when I wake up), or if I’ve played a simple puzzle game for ages.

      After a big Auidosurf binge my dreams become this endless, easy stream of white blocks coming towards me – anyone who has played the game on anything other than mono will know what a lovely thought that is.

    • Serondal says:

      I’ve had that happen as well as I’m playing a bunch of awesome sounding games that don’t actaully exist. I recall very well I played this one online game that was fantasic with massive battles between players ect and when I woke up I was like “Awww” Because in my dream I played it for hours and hours and got a lot of awsome loot :)

  13. Lambo says:

    I have to say, I love how all the comments here are based off the most off-hand remark in the whole article. What we are dicussing is related, but mostly we are ignoring the guts of Johns article that looks like it took a good bit of putting together.

    Personally I feel our direction is the better one though… :)

  14. Taillefer says:

    I’ve always had lucid dreams from as far back as I can remember, so for a long time I thought that was the normal thing. I wonder if that’s more beneficial or detrimental to my intellectual development or lack thereof. Hm.

    • Serondal says:

      It’s always been a great source of stress relief for me :P I can’t tell you how many times I’ve beaten up my father in my dreams when I know It won’t actaully hurt him for real (Because I do love him just get upset by him ;p)

    • Taillefer says:

      You and I obviously have something in common regarding the ease we seem to be able to do this compared to these “others”. We should be experimented upon.

      Do you experience any sort of synaesthesia? I have sound>colour, possibly completely unrelated.

    • Vinraith says:

      I lucid dream fairly often and fairly easily, but it’s a knifes-edge balance trying to stay awake while doing so. I find it almost impossible, once I’m aware that I’m dreaming, not to inadvertently wake myself up.

    • Serondal says:

      I don’t have that Synesthesia at all unless smelling things when I remember certain events :P

    • ulix says:

      I’ve read that it helps clinging to something when you realize you’re dreaming.

      Only thought of it once and tried it, and it seemed to work, at leat for a little while.

  15. chaves says:

    Sleeping must have something good, definitely. DaVinci used to sleep often, but shortly. That allowed him to reach the REM phase (so he dreamed, we can assume), take all the juice from it, and keep working. Polyphasic sleep, they call it. Sleep about 20 minutes after you’re awake for 4 hours. Productivity boosts. And, as the study mentioned in this post suggests, he would have pwned us all in Doom.

    • Taillefer says:

      I know a couple of people who tried to adopt a poly-phasic sleeping pattern but they weren’t very successful. Personally, my nightly sleep is only 4-6 hours anyway, so I can be extra-productive fighting Darkspawn for longer.

    • Serondal says:

      Kramer from Seinfield attempted this in one episode and ended up passing out durning love making and waking up in the river because his would be lover thought he was dead and wanted to git rid of the body :P

    • Aisi says:

      So much for “Simpsons did it!” Seinfeld is the new/old/concurrent Simpsons!

  16. sana says:

    I never dream. I am way too sound asleep to have any recollection of dreaming when I wake up. Y’all a bunch of spoiled whippersnappers with your dreams and other modern gadgets… what would I do to experience a dream once in a while!

    • Taillefer says:

      Maybe you could start with good, old-fashioned black and white dreams.

    • Serondal says:

      Maybe you could try to start with day dreaming ? : P

    • ulix says:

      I only started dreaming regurarily again (and to actually remember my dreams) after I stopped smoking weed every day. You could try that ;)

      Seriously though, I have a lot of friends who smoke very often, and none of them really dreams (or at least they don’t remember any of it).

    • Serondal says:

      I’ve actaully had some of my friends tell me the very same thing, that they don’t dream at all becasue of that and started dreaming again when they stopped ;) (But same friend claimed to have realized the cure for cancer when he was intoxicated on the stuff and then when he came down totally couldn’t remember what it was . . .dude. )

    • pepper says:

      I also know a few people that dont dream because they smoke.

  17. jonfitt says:

    I once had a game related sleepwalking session.
    After playing too much Mario, one night I passed my sister on the way to the bathroom and made her an earnest pact that I would not jump on her head if she would not jump on mine.

    • Serondal says:

      My brother is a HORRIBLE sleep walker. One night I woke up and went to the rest room and heard him in the TV room. I walked in there and watched him as he held the NES controller and looked at the TV which was turned off and the lights were out and everything. When I flipped the lights on he woke up and said “Leave me alone I’m playing mario! Why did you turn off the lights and the TV!” so I was just like . . . lights off! When I turned the lights out he closed his eyes and went back to playing the game in his dreams :P

  18. TCM says:

    There was this one time I woke up at 3 AM, and as I was using the bathroom, I suddenly lost touch with reality, and couldn’t remember what was real and fictional. This lasted for about 6 minutes, during which time my brain overloaded. It is, to this date, the most surreal experience of my life.

  19. Baris says:

    Oh man, someone needs to teach me how I can stop forgetting all my dreams as soon as I wake up! I always have amazing fun in my dreams, but I can only have a dream that I have any recollection whatsoever of every couple of months or so. :/

    • TCM says:

      The only dreams I ever remember are the ones that wake me up, or ones I have when I am ‘jolted’ awake. (As in, go from fully asleep to completely awake within seconds)

    • Serondal says:

      I have a pretty good ability to remember all my dreams from start to finish but only a few a night. There are probably a lot of dreams I’ll never remember :)

      Am I the only person that will lay back down if I get woke up earlier and finish the dream in my waking mind just to get closer on the story? There are times where I lay down to do this and actaully resume the dream in progress and finish it the way I want it to turn out.

    • Toby says:

      That you are capable of this makes you a bastard.

    • Taillefer says:

      Heh, I do that too. Sometimes I resume dreams the following night, or replay them and do things differently to see what happens.

    • Serondal says:

      I have something similiar to that where I have the same dream over and over for months untiil finally I figure out so way to change it and then I never have it again.

      I’ve had quiet a few dreams about aliens either flying over head in UFOs or in a few cases actaully beaming me up into the ship and hurting me :P But I’ve never thought any of these are true they all seem to be related to watching that sort of thing on TV.

      One strange event I did have when I was really young though. I was awake in my room and I saw the outline of people running along my walls. There was a REALLY bright light and I saw the outline of people walking all around me like shadows that were blocking out the bright light that came from outside my window. For all I know it may have been real (maybe someone was outside working on the sewer or something with bright lights at night and that’s all I saw) But all I recall is that it scared me to death and it wasn’t a dream, at least not like any dream I’ve ever had before or since. Mainly because my father got up and walked to the bathroom WHILE I could still see them, then ducked in his head and told me to go back to sleep WHILE I could see them and he didn’t notice them ;P

    • noom says:

      Don’t open your eyes. Sounds completely illogical but I swear it works. You can remember your dreams until the moment you open your eyes.

      The hard part is remembering not to open them.

  20. underproseductor says:

    Aw, I hate sleeping. I like coffee. That pretty much explains it all. It sucks so much to wake in the morning after long and healthy sleep and realize I have a shitload of assignments and work to do – and that sleep just leaves me less time do work it out.

  21. Lilliput King says:

    “I never dream. I am way too sound asleep to have any recollection of dreaming when I wake up. Y’all a bunch of spoiled whippersnappers with your dreams and other modern gadgets… what would I do to experience a dream once in a while!”

    Indeed. I think I had a dream, maybe two years ago. I think maybe it was good? Not sure on this one.

    • Monkeybreadman says:

      I rarely remember my dreams, but it doesnt mean i dont have them

  22. Clovis says:

    Hey, John, I personally hate sleep too. I occasionally go on Adam Carolla-esque rants whenever someone mentions sleeping in on Saturday.

    If there was a pill I could take to not sleep I would be all over that, especially since most other people would avoid it like the plague. Having a good extra 8 hours a night to myself would be great. I currently can only manage an hour or two of free time at the most. Games totally take the up. When I have more time I tend to watch movies, read books, or I even might start coding.

  23. Serenegoose says:

    I absolutely hate sleep and dreaming. I wouldn't do it if I could. I have nightmares often, and though I'm in a stage where I'm lucky enough to just have no memory of my dreams anymore, I do not sleep pleasantly. I also hate how much of my life it takes up. There's been a few times where I have slowly drifted to sleep relaxedly and happily, and I suppose had that been my norm I'd probably quite enjoy it. As it is, it's a force in my life that feels like it just takes, and doesn't give. Losing 8 (9,10,11? My body often suffers intense delirium when I awake, where my dreams persist, and I often can't focus long enough to get up, even through several alarm clocks) hours a night to terrifying nightmares just isn't much fun. Urgh.

  24. id says:

    It gets even better. Lab mice dream about running mazes — while sleeping, their brain runs through all the turns they had to take to get to the reward, many times over and at varying speeds. (Verified by the usual Science-y expedient of slipping thin electrodes into their brains so you can see what neurons are lighting up; the same ones used running the maze while awake will fire off in the same patterns when they’re asleep and dreaming.)

    So in one way, dreams are a technique for synthesizing information and maybe even getting some practice in. If you’re a mouse, you dream about the strategies and activities that proved most rewarding, and wake up knowing the maze better than you did the day before and you will get your reward faster. If you’re a man, you know that the imps are going to teleport in (at least one behind you, and the rest probably from the corners of the room) the *instant* you pick up the blue key and you will KICK THEIR ASSES.

    • Serondal says:

      Some people (I don’t know who) have said that sleeping allows us to replay the day in our mind and copy it to our long term memory from our short term memory. Which is why some people who have no short term memory can remember everything through-out the day but once they go to sleep and wake up the next day everything is gone (just from that daY) and to them it is like the day after the last day they didn’t have this problem. Maybe the part of the brain that does the copying is broken but the short term memory part doesn’t know that and goes ahead and wipes the memory :P

      Maybe they could consider a form of treatment for these people by allowing them only to sleep for short peroids of time like Davinci , maybe they would only loose small parts of their short term memory instead of all of it ? I dunno :P

    • Taillefer says:

      Hence my question on whether lucid dreaming so often is beneficial or not. Does the process still happen if you’re choosing what to dream about?

      Also, I never really considered using it for practising things. I’m going to do that.

    • Serondal says:

      I could be wrong but I believe the part of sleep where you’re dreaming is not the part of sleep where you’re resting/storing info ect. I remember reading something a few weeks ago where a study found it was actaully harmful to dream to much. (or at least it made you get less real sleep and could lead to you getting stressed out) I certainly feel like after I’ve been having a long night of active lucid dreams that I’m not rested at all.

  25. pilouuuu says:

    I remember I was once searching for the solution for a puzzle in Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis. Failing to do so I went to sleep and the solution came to me in a dream! I don’t remember it now, but it had something to do with crabs in a sewer system.

    The first thing I did when I woke up next day was to try it and to my surprise and amusement the solution worked!

    I think the subconcious works on the solution for problems while we are sleeping and it works for real life and for games too!

  26. Serondal says:

    Have any of you ever done something in a real that , when you woke up, you felt guilty about it? For example I had one dream where I was talking to my wife and for whatever reason I just kicked her down the stairs :P She fell all the way down like broke her neck. But then I realized she was a demon or something and her head bent around and said something to the effect of “Whats wrong Charles don’t want you to come down here with me” Then the light switches stopped working so I woke myself up ;P I’ve also had dreams where I’ve beatten my father up (a lot of these actaully) some where I’ll just randomly attack a person for a very small reason like they hit on my wife and I’ll totally destroy them, to the point where I kill them. When I have these sorts of dreams I normally wake up feeling very guilty (also a few dreams where a cheat on my wife or even one dream where I cheat on my ife with a clone of my wife O.o)

    Now for my most amazing Lucid dream, I would like to share you with you guys :P Lucid Dream #1 of all time. In my dream I was going to the movies, this is where I realized I was asleep. So in my mind I told myself, yah I’m going to the movies but I’m also a vampire :P so while my friends are going into the movie theatre I notice another vampire stalking me across the street. Once they go inside jump up onto the street light and then fly across the street at light speed and slam him down onto the hood of a car and ask him why he’s following me. There is a lightning fast battle and he gets loose and goes after my friends. When it becomes clear he’s after them and not me I shoot across the street and pin him against the wall making the bricks behind shattered but the wall withstands the force. I look him in the eye and then bite his neck and begin to drink his blood while I hold his head back O.o Once he is totally drained of blood I pick him up and throw him into traffic. Without his lifes blood he is torn to pieces and dies on the street.

    For whatever reason no one notices this at all ;p From here I loose control of the dream and go into another dream about being lost in a movie theatre looking for my friends lol.

  27. Railick says:

    Bah I've been posting logged out again ;P All posts by Serondal are actaully Railick , sorry.

  28. jameskond says:

    I hate sleep, if I have to go to sleep. But once I need to stand up I’d rather sleep all days.. erh 2 cents, 2 cents.

  29. Monkeybreadman says:

    If i didnt waste the other 2/3 of my life then i might resent sleep. But as it is sleep gives me the chance to do nothing and not feel guilty.

    Try sleeping with a woman if you don’t like it

    • Monkeybreadman says:

      Plus watching dogs dream is funny………not that i spend my time watching dogs dream

  30. JonFitt says:

    Urk! That’s like something out of a Stephen King novel!

    • Monkeybreadman says:

      All watching dogs dream and no play makes monkey a dull boy
      All watching dogs dream and no play makes monkey a dull boy
      All watching dogs dream and no play makes monkey a dull boy

  31. noom says:

    Am I the only person here more concerned about all the time they’re wasting while they’re awake?

  32. captain fitz says:

    I used to dream about awesome things like Diablo and Age of Empires. Why did I have to start dreaming about boring things like girls and money?

  33. 7rigger says:

    I’m glad to hear of someone who shares my feelings about sleep. It seems as soon as I realised that I would be spending half my life on my back doing nothing, I started to develop insomnia :P

    On the same note (slightly), last night I dreamt that all my teeth fell out. What the hell does that mean? What is the point of dreams if they’re just going to screw with you?

  34. Kamakaze says:

    The most annoying dream I have had involved dreaming I had woken up and gone to work for a few hours then waking up and realising I had not and feeling like I hadnt slept at all.

    Learning is definitely linked to dreaming, there have been a ton of problems I have spent all night trying to solve and often the solution comes to you so easily the next day (at least with programming :P )

  35. KindredPhantom says:

    Interesting piece.

  36. Lucas says:

    I have dreams about playing games that don’t exist. There’s a theory that dreams are a kind of threat simulator, but I guess it’s close enough for playtesting too.

  37. WCG says:

    I regularly play games – RPGs – in my dreams. They usually aren’t the game I’m currently playing, but brand-new games, and a lot better than any game I’ve ever played awake. Well, for one thing, they’re not on a screen, but more like I’m inside the game. I’m always disappointed when I wake up and discover that the game doesn’t actually exist.

    And although I rarely know that I’m dreaming, I always know that I’m playing a game in my dream. So if something doesn’t go quite right, I “reload” the game and try again. And dangerous situations don’t bother me a bit, because it’s just a game, after all. It’s really a lot of fun.

  38. Jazmeister says:

    I think sleep annoys me too, but I like the feeling of it. I think it’s more like being addicted to something, knowing you need it, but wishing that you didn’t.

  39. Masked Dave says:

    I don’t mind sleep, but I don’t like having to go to bed. It means my evening has run out and all I have left is getting up for work in the morning.

  40. Chris R says:

    My friends and I got into a discussion about this in university once:

    Say there was a machine that could be installed in your room (cost of said machine is not part of this discussion) that could give you all the benefits from a full 8 hours of sleep, in the blink of an eye. You walk into the machine, and presto, it’s like you got a full 8 hours of sleep. The ONLY downside to using the machine is that it makes your life 1/3 as long as someone that goes to bed and gets a full 8 hours of sleep. (8hrs/24hrs = 1/3 of your life).

    Would you use this machine?

    • Taillefer says:

      No. The world still moves around you, things happen, new events, new experiences, your friends and family grows. You’d miss out on anything that happened the last 1/3rd of your life. A third of your life is potentially a few decades. Plus, I sleep less than 8 hours. :P

  41. Railick says:

    I feel that Masked Dave that is generally how I feel as well. It makes it hard to sleep some times knowing that you're more or less fastforwarding your life until you have to go to work :P

    I agree with all the people that feel like sleep is a waste of time, I'd probably ditch it too if I could without dieing even though I do enjoy it a lot.

    Anyone else have physic abilites in their dreams ? (like say, the ability to reach out and cause something to float to you or the ability to cast magical spells like fire balls?) In most of my lucid dreams I also have the ability to lift things with my mind, often I use them to impress the virutal people in my dream by lifting up an object and making it spin in mid air in front of me :P But sometimes I also use it as a weapon to toss people. What is weird about it, is that I feel some sort of connection in my mind to the object and use that to pull it, almost as if I could really do it in real life if I could only remember what I did in the dream.

  42. Premium User Badge

    skalpadda says:

    Dreams and sleep improving performance has been pretty obvious to me for a long time. I play the classical guitar and whenever I learn something difficult or something with new techniques I haven’t used before I absolutely cannot play it comfortably until I’ve had a good night’s sleep. the improvement and sense of comfort with something new is so definite that it’s pretty obvious that some sort of learning or process of getting familiar with techniques is taking place while I sleep and dream. When I remember my dreams I usually do dream of playing.

    I’ve also composed some really amazing music, complete with fingerings with extreme clarity which made perfect sense in dreams, but sadly it’s really hard to get it down once I wake up and memories of dreams fade really fast once I awake.

    I dream a lot about games I spend a lot of time with, but it’s hard to tell if it’s making me any better at them.