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The Butterfly Dream
"Once upon a time, I had a dream where I was a butterfly, fluttering freely in every direction, entirely a butterfly in every way. I experienced nothing but the pure joy of being a butterfly, completely unaware that I was actually myself. Then, I awoke, and there I was, unmistakably myself once more. Now, I am left wondering if I was a man dreaming I was a butterfly back then, or perhaps I am currently a butterfly, dreaming that I am a man."
Sleep patterns vary markedly across different age groups, with people sleeping progressively less soundly in later life. Stage 4, or deep sleep, in particular, practically disappears among the elderly. Studies of dreams through the life cycle have shown less dramatic patterns. For instance, in one study that subdivided subjects into four age groups—21–34, 35–49, 50–64, and 65 and over subjects in the 21–34 and 50–64 groups reported having more dreams than the other two groups.
Content-wise, the most dramatic finding was a direct correlation between age and frequency of dreams about death and dying. Dream content also changes among the retired (especially the institutionalized) elderly, who often experience dreams about lack of resources.
Finally, dreams among those who are dying often include the theme of life after death....