1
$\begingroup$

The Dreamlands are a vast, alternate dimension that can only be entered via dreams. They are divided up into several sections, all of which are inhabited by monsters who serve the idiot elder god Azathoth. These creatures seek to enter our world and conquer it, using human beings as a focal point.

When a human goes to bed, they eventually enter a mode called REM, which is the deepest and most important mode of sleep. This is where they gain the most rest, recharging them for the next day. Unfortunately, it is also the point that they are most vulnerable. All humans dream in this state, their minds entering the dreamlands for a period of time. This leaves them open to predators, who can consume their minds and inhabit their physical forms, allowing them to cross over into our world and enslave us. This has become more frequent, and these creatures are difficult to kill, slaughtering entire families and communities before being brought down.

The only way to prevent this is to cut people off from the dreamlands by stopping them from dreaming entirely. However, eliminating REM would lead to a lot of irate people getting into fisticuffs in the day due to lack of deep sleep. How can I do this without damaging REM mode?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Any reference to Freddy Krueger is purely casual? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jul 24 '19 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ REM sleep and dreaming are one and the same thing. It's called REM sleep from the point of view of an external observer, and dreaming from the point of view of the sleeper. REM = Rapid Eye Movement, the external sign that a person or animal is dreaming. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 24 '19 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ Tin foil hat ? :-) How to stop it requires detailed knowledge of what biochemical/physical mechanism allows what is actually communication with this other world. What precisely happens in REM sleep that allows communication ? $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jul 24 '19 at 12:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just a note: Dreaming does not occur exclusively during REM sleep. There are dreams that occur during non-REM periods, but these are not as vivid and full of narrative as a REM dream. NREM dreams are most often repetitive in their imagery, often of a single task, and it's theorized that the majority of learning a new skill occurs during this sleep as the brain "reorganizes" what it knows (similar to backpropagation in an artificial neural net). $\endgroup$ – stix Jul 24 '19 at 19:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Additionally, biologically speaking, REM sleep is one of the least deep, not deepest, modes of sleep. The brain's electrical patterns during REM are nearly identical to those during waking, and it is much easier to wake someone from REM sleep rather than something like deep delta wave sleep. $\endgroup$ – stix Jul 24 '19 at 19:32
9
$\begingroup$

"Solving" dreaming for humans probably won't protect the world (though having your protagonist try it and fail for this reason might make a very entertaining story twist).

The reason is that all mammals undergo REM sleep and dreaming. Just watch a dog or cat take a nap if you don't believe me. Dogs, cats, monkeys and apes, barnyard animals like horses, cows, pigs, sheep, and their wild cousins, all dream. And based on the way dogs and cats twitch and occasionally vocalize, their dreams aren't always about pleasant things -- "fighting bears" is the way my partner describes the Rotweiler's sleep-barking and such.

If Azathoth's minions can't get through to our world via humans, why wouldn't they be able to get through via dogs or cats, of if those aren't quite "conscious" enough, monkeys or apes? One might hypothesize that some minimum level of intelligence is needed, with cats, dogs, pigs, goats, and horses (including donkeys and mules) being the only domestic animals smart enough to supply a portal -- and all of these are pretty good at defending themselves in their dreams.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For that matter, perhaps animals are more vulnerable and the "Fighting Bears" dream is really them fighting Azathoth's minions. If we were really that vulnerable the conquering would have happened long ago. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Jul 24 '19 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @ITAlex Fortunately (I hypothesize) the minions need some minimum level of intelligence to get through -- pigs, dogs, cats and horses are the only domestic animals smart enough (maybe some parrots) and they're pretty good at self defense. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jul 24 '19 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ Also most birds have a form of REM. Apes can use tools and learn sign language so that might count as intelligence too (tools part is also true with crows, otters, & elephants). $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Jul 24 '19 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ I did mention monkeys and apes in the middle paragraph, just left them out of the last one. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jul 24 '19 at 18:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This would make a fine aspect of the story. Why are the monsters coming thru more frequently? Because for some tragic reason there are fewer cats in the waking world. In the dream world, glorious giant glowing dream cats routinely kick monster ass. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jul 27 '19 at 0:26
3
$\begingroup$

REM Sleep is sleep characterised by the eye movements that occur during dreams, if a person has no dreams they won't experience any Rapid Eye Movement. Without dreams REM Sleep would become a thing of the past. Without dreams people would start to deteriorate and probably eventually die the same as people who suffer total sleep deprivation but slower.

You could posit a change to how the brain processes and stores memory, thus eliminating the need for that state of sleep in which case people still need the body rest of the other 3 stages of sleep but no longer need REM sleep. This would probably result in people sleeping an extra cycle of N1-N2-N3-N2-N1 sleep to compensate for the lost REM stages, this may result in waking at unusual times in the sleep cycle. There'll be an adjustment period as people adapt to getting their sleep interrupted in stages they're not used to, like their alarm going off while they're in stage 3 deep sleep instead of the much lighter stage 1 sleep they're used to will make getting going for the day really hard for a time.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.