Home About Me My Research Online Study Activities

My Research

Witnessing-sleep

My PhD project aims to develop a philosophical account of conscious dreamless sleep – conscious phenomena had during sleep that don’t fit within a description of dreams. In particular, my investigation focused on the so-called experience of witnessing-sleep (Fort, 1980; Chatterje, 1982; Gupta, 1998).

The experience of witnessing-sleep has been largely described by contemplative traditions, including the Indian philosophical school of Advaita Vedanta. These traditions describe witnessing-sleep as an awareness had during dreamless sleep that is objectless and contentless (that’s it, that it lacks any object or content of awareness). For the Advaitns, witnessing-sleep is sushupti (Sanskrit: सुषुप्ति); one of the four states of consciousness (Mandukya Upanishad, Olivelle, 1998: 475). Other traditions, like Tibetan Buddhism, refer to this experience under the name of ‘Yoga Nidra’ or ‘Sleep Yoga’(Norbu, 1983; Wangyal Tenzin, 1998; Gyatrul, Khandro, & Wallace, 2002). More recently, some more contemporary authors have referred to it as 'lucid dreamless sleep' (Thompson, 2014, 2015; Windt, 2015; Windt, Nielsen and Thompson, 2016).

My PhD project is divided into two major strands of research:

Some questions that I ask are the following: How should we better describe dreamless sleep experiences? Are those dreams or a sui generis class of experiences? And, if we aren’t dreams, why aren’t they?

Can we have an objectless sort of dreamless sleep experience? How would this look like? And if we can, which implications would its existence has to other accounts on the nature of consciousness? Can we explain consciousness without alluding to an ‘object’ of awareness?

I’m also collecting new evidence on the experience of witnessing-sleep. With that purpose, I’m carrying out a new qualitative study where I’ll interview participants reporting awareness during dreamless sleep. You can check the information on this study to find out more.


Published Papers

Awareness in the void: a micro-phenomenological exploration of conscious dreamless sleep, Forthcoming in Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences

Selected Talks

2020

2019

‘Looking for the minimal Phenomenal experience. The case of lucid dreamless sleep'

2018