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Why You Have Weird Dreams After THON

There’s a bottleneck out of the Bryce Jordan Center while swarms of students carrying giant Greek letters wait for CATA buses home outside. Your feet ache, you feel a little stinky, and you begin to finally feel the effects of a diet made up exclusively of THON grilled cheeses and Gatorade. Maybe you make a pitstop at the Phyrst for a beer or Champs for a Pedialyte cocktail.

But soon enough, you’re settling into your bed at approximately 7 p.m. for what feels like the longest, most restorative sleep of your life.

And then you’re naked and being chased by a giraffe while trying to make it to a dentist appointment.

Or if you’re the managing editor of Onward State: You’re back inside the BJC during the total reveal when the Internet cuts out.

If you’ve ever been in for the long haul during THON, you’ve probably had an experience like this one after all is said and done and the BJC clears out. We aren’t going to have you lean back on a couch so we can tell you how these strange dreams really mean you’re in love with your mother. But as you’ve probably been able to piece together, there’s a relationship between lack of sleep and weird dreams.

When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t fully experience the benefits of rest. Your body doesn’t cycle through the different stages of sleep, so you don’t truly reap its full restorative benefits such as improving your memory, reducing inflammation, and boosting your immune system.

A “good night’s sleep” usually consists of 4-5 full sleep cycles, meaning ideally, you should spend about two hours in the rapid eye movement stage (REM), one of the most important phases. In REM sleep, our bodies are paralyzed, but our brain activity resembles that of when we’re awake. This stage is also when dreaming occurs and when you process and consolidate new information.

When you don’t get enough REM sleep, the benefits are pretty much lost on you. To make up for that debt, you experience REM Rebound, a period of increased sleep intensity and brain activity during your next sleep. This rebound has been shown to occur when you get less than four hours of sleep — does that sound a little like THON Weekend?

As a result, we tend to dream more and crazier.

Scientific American cited a 2005 study in Sleep, where researchers found that people who lost 30 minutes of REM one night experienced a 35 percent increase in it the following night. Subjects rebounded from 74 minutes of REM to 100 minutes in the study.

“When someone is sleep deprived we see greater sleep intensity, meaning greater brain activity during sleep; dreaming is definitely increased and likely more vivid,” neurologist Mark Mahowald of the University of Minnesota told Scientific American in the same article.

That greater frequency and lucidity can lead to some pretty interesting — and sometimes trippy — reveries…especially in the hours right after THON. Plenty would make Sigmund Freud’s mouth water with excitement. We’ve heard stories of people dreaming they were part of the Scooby Doo gang, watching FDR ask trivia questions on the Beaver Stadium scoreboard, and yes, tweeting the THON total.


Did you have a weird post-THON dream? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci was once Onward State’s managing editor and preferred walk-on honors student who majored in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected] All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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