Although the physiological basis and purpose of dreams may be uncertain, we need to recall that Freud was more interested in what his patients said about their dreams than in the dream content itself. Humans are inveterate interpreters. We are constantly reading our surroundings, our inner states, even our pasts and futures. Those interpretations often say more about us than about our actual surroundings, inner states, pasts, and futures. If dreams are indeed laden with strong emotional feelings via the brain stem, why not read our dreams as we might read a novel or a puzzling poem to discover, in the intersection between dream and interpretation, something of ourselves? Anthony Kubiak
Tampa, Fla.

The mention of lucid dreaming was particularly noteworthy. After years of involvement, I am most amazed and excited about the work done by Stanford University affiliate Stephen LaBerge, through his Lucidity Institute. His work with lucid dreamers in the 1980s, developing a code for them to communicate out of their dreams with eye signals, has been the scientific milestone that has gained him recognition in the scientific community. Why and how we dream is interesting, but what people can do in lucid dreams is fascinating.

Joseph A. Schaljo
Cincinnati, Ohio

Some scientists involved in the study of dreams simply dont want to deal with their evolutionary heritage. Simply put, we have the minds and brains of the hunter-gatherers we have descended from. That means we should be sound asleep for the two 90-minute stage-four segments of deep sleep about an hour after sunset. The first segment recharges our batteries (metabolism) and the second restores our immune system. After that comes the four or five 90-minute segments of rapid-eye-movement sleep in which the brain digs into the important stuff that has happened to us in the past few days and affixes it to our long-term memories. J. Allan Hobson is right. These neo-Freudians are in la-la land. C. Van Youngman
Philadelphia, Pa.

The article states that “as recently as 200 years ago in Europe, people slept in two nightly phases of 4 to 5 hours each.” Now, is the implication that this is by conscious or cultural intent or rather that someone had to get up in the middle of the night and throw another brick of coal or log on the fire? Jon Kitzen
Hollywood, Fla.

Practical considerations, such as fire maintenance, affected premodern sleep practices. However, fundamental biological processes may promote segmented sleep when extended periods of darkness are unbroken by artificial lighting (SN: 9/25/99, p. 205:–B. Bower Maybe a purpose of dreaming is to maintain the body in a state of rest and probably to keep the mind idling. I often wake up during the wee hours to answer natures call. I have found that when I do so, if I make a determined effort, I can remember just what I was dreaming about when I awoke. Then upon returning to bed, by recalling the contents of the dream, I promptly fall back to sleep. The dream can even be slightly unpleasant. I do not attempt to recall those dreams bordering on nightmares. If I do not remember the dream and my mind wanders to real-life happenings, I have a much more difficult time falling back to sleep. I wonder if there have been any studies made considering such a purpose. Wes Ives
Wilson, N.C.