Dream Cycle

Dream Cycle

Dream Cycle is a five-minute audio narrative representing dreams during the five stages of sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). Research suggests we dream throughout the sleep cycle, but especially during REM. The stages of sleep and REM can be identified with different brain waves, but the challenge of this project is to represent their interconnected nature with sounds. Dream Cycle was jury selected for inclusion in the international online Art In Dream project.


Art in Dream Dream Cycle
Art In Dream Project
5:00 sound art
Juried online exhibition, international
Siauliai, Lithuania
1 January 2017 - present
Event website
My work at event website


I created and submitted Dream Cycle in response to an international open call for submissions the Art In Dream Project, in Siauliai, Lithuania. Artists were invited to analyze their dreams and share their message(s) through a chosen art form. My sound art submission was one of thirty seven by artists from twenty four countries jury selected for inclusion in the online exhibition during 2017.


Object: Audio file
Format: mp3
Bit Rate: 356kbs
Duration: 5:00
Created: 2016
Creator: John F. Barber

Conceptual Framework

We sleep for nearly one third of our lives. We sleep in cycles, each 90-110 minutes in length. During each sleep cycle we progress through five stages: Stages 1-4, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement)

In Stage 1, we drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. If awakened, we claim to have not been asleep. Eye and muscle movement slows. Muscles may contract suddenly and we may experience a sense of falling (falling asleep?)

In Stage 2, eye movement stops and brain waves become slower, with intermittent bursts of faster waves.

In Stage 3 and 4, often called deep sleep or delta sleep, brain waves are extremely slow (delta waves), with some short bursts of faster waves. There is no eye movement of muscle activity. It is difficult to wake someone from this sleep stage. These two stages are often considered as one.

In the REM stage, our eyes jerk rapidly, our muscles are temporarily paralyzed, our breathing becomes more rapid, our heart rate and blood pressure increases, and our bodies lose some of their abilities to regulate their temperatures. This is when dreams occur. Most people experience 3-5 intervals of REM sleep a night. If awoken during REM, we can remember our dreams.

Dream Cycle attempts to sonify these sleep stages, one minute per stage, for a total of five minutes in length. This approach sets aside dreaming at any time other than sleep. This is not to dismiss wakeful, liminal dreaming, or conscious dreaming, but rather to provide a conceptual framework for a short work of sound art meant to suggest narratives embedded in dreams. I imagine sounds assimilated by one's (sub)conscious during liminal dreaming in my radio art work Between Sleep and Dreams. Listen and learn more.

Artist Statement

Brain and sleep research suggests that we dream constantly. Day and night, our brains are actively dreaming, creating narratives. Dreaming provides a mirror for seeing and understanding images associated with our thoughts. We either deny these dreams, seeking to replace them with some "productive" activity, or we embrace them for the stories they provide.

Dream Cycle interprets the stages of sleep that flow into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles. This of course sets aside our constant dreaming during waking hours, but the focus on the sleep cycle provided a framework for considering narratives that might emerge from dreams.

Each stage of the sleep cycle is notable for a different brain wave pattern. The sleep stages flow one into another, 3-5 times a night. The challenge of this project is to represent their interconnection with sounds to better illustrate brain activity during sleep and dreams. The purpose is not to sonify a particular dream, but rather, through an imaginary sonification of dreaming, to illustrate the potential for narrative embedded within dreams.