Dreaming (delirious sleep): symptoms, causes and treatment

The dream or delirium of sleep is an alteration of consciousness which usually occurs due to substance abuse or organic brain disorders such as epilepsy and parasomnias. Its main feature is the appearance of hallucinations similar to those that occur when we dream, but in this case they occur in the waking state.

In this article we will describe the main characteristics, symptoms and causes of the dream. That is why we must stop at other concepts and disorders associated with delusions of sleep, such as “productive disorder of consciousness”, “parasomnia” or even the term “hallucination”.

    What is the dream or the delirium of sleep?

    Dreaming, also called delirium of sleep, is a psychological state characterized by the presence of hallucinations similar to those that occur during dreams but that occur during the day before. Both nomenclatures refer to this fact, as the Greek word “Oneiros” can be translated as “dream” or “dream”.

    This phenomenon is associated with the excessive consumption of certain substances, such as toxic products or alcohol and other drugs, as well as pathophysiological disorders of the brain. However, at other times, dreaminess does not have a pathological component, but can also be the result of normal biological factors, such as sleep deprivation.

    The delirium of sleep is part of the set of alterations that we call “Productive disorders of consciousness”, in which delirium is also included (Very common in hospitalized elderly and in alcoholics with withdrawal syndrome), depersonalization, derealization or phantom limb syndrome.

    The common aspect that unites this group of disorders is that in each of them hallucinations appear due to alterations that affect consciousness. We speak of hallucination when a person perceives a little through any sensory channel (auditory, visual, etc.) without a stimulus justifying it, especially if he believes that this perception is real.

      Main symptoms and manifestations

      In the case of dreaming, and how it tends to happen when organic alterations in the brain are present or when substances with psychoactive effects are consumed, hallucinations are mainly visual in nature. However, sometimes tactile hallucinations and to a lesser extent auditory, olfactory and gustatory hallucinations are also identified.

      Hallucinations do not always occur in a single sensory modality, but can be multimodal; for example, hearing a threatening voice and feeling someone’s breath in your ear would be a multimodal hallucination. Some authors only use the concept of “delusional sleep” when the hallucinations are of this type, whereas “dreaming” would be a broader term.

      Like most productive disorders of consciousness, dreaming is often associated with loss of contact with reality, in whole or in part. Sometimes the person may pass out or perceive the environment in which they are hallucinating.

      The most common is that delusions of sleep are transient in nature, closely related to specific biological factors, and do not have a significant impact on the psychological state of those who suffer from them in the long term. Another feature of the dream is that it usually starts suddenly, within a few hours or at most.

        Causes of delusions of sleep

        dream it results from different organic factors affecting the brain. The most common is drug addiction poisoning, but any transient or chronic brain disorder has the potential to cause these symptoms, especially those that affect processes related to wakefulness and sleep.

        1. Abuse of psychoactive substances

        The most common cause of delusions of sleep is excessive alcohol consumption, antidepressants and sedative-hypnotics (Especially barbiturates) and drugs with hallucinogenic effects, including hallucinogenic mushrooms or psilocybin, mescaline, which is found in peyote, and lysergic acid or LSD.

        Poisoning with certain types of poison and other substances toxic to the human body is also associated with the appearance of dream episodes.

        2. Parasomnias

        Parasomnias are a group of sleep disorders that are characterized by the appearance of abnormal behaviors, perceptions or emotions during the transition periods between sleep and wakefulness. Dreaming is particularly common in REM sleep disorders, During which dreams are very vivid and muscle tone increases.

          3. Organic alterations

          Epilepsy, in which episodes of abnormal brain activity occur that frequently lead to seizures, is one of the chronic organ disorders most associated with delirious sleep. Other relevant organic processes include febrile states, infections, gastrointestinal bleeding and degenerative brain disease.

          4. Non-pathological factors

          People without relevant organ disorders who are not under the effects of a substance we have mentioned may also have low-intensity delusions. Among the non-pathological factors that predispose to dreaming, it should be noted severe fatigue, sleep deprivation, indigestion and marked anxiety states.

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