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Our Sleep and Our Dreams

Updated: Sep 4, 2023



Occasionally, I see influential people bragging about how little they sleep in a rush to achieve more. I hope someone will take the time and do research following their lives. I just wonder how many supplements and energy boosters they take and how many therapies they receive later. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is a torture technique. Sleep is an essential part of our life. That is why we spend one-third of our lives resting and sleeping. There is plenty of information available about the importance of sleep. Sleep is crucial to our physical and mental development from young to senior years. One of my standard questions to new clients is, “How is your sleep?” Recent research points out that lack of sleep has many negative health consequences, including cardiovascular problems, a weakened immune system, a higher risk of obesity and type II diabetes, impaired thinking and memory, and mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Even though, at first glimpse, sleep looks like a simple turn of the switch, it is a very complex process. This process affects practically all systems of the body. Understanding our circadian rhythms helps us better recognize our natural sleep patterns.


However, sleep has another function - it allows us to dream. This mysterious ability has fascinated people for centuries. Some believe they are coded messages to inform or warn us. That universe teaches us by symbols. Dreams are one of the expressions of these symbols. Dreams can influence our lives even if we don't understand them. Others believe dreams are random stories (activation-synthesis hypothesis) our mind produces while we sleep. Stories that could create strong emotional responses.

Most experts agree that dreams exist to:

  • Help solve problems in our lives

  • Incorporate memories

  • Process emotions

In a dream, we are free of any restrictions or conditionings. We think outside the box. There are many facts recorded about ideas or solutions that came in dreams. Some researchers believe if you work intensely on something, even when you sleep, your subconscious mind continues to try to find a solution.

There are two examples of what a dream could deliver:


*Elias Howe, a sewing machine inventor, was stuck in the design element. Frustrated, he goes to sleep and has a violent dream. Someone threatens to kill him if he can't find a working solution. And because he failed, he was stabbed with the spear. The spear had a hole in the tip. The hole in the tip of the needle was all that was missing to make the sewing machine work.


*The melody of the most popular Beatles song, "Yesterday," came to Paul McCartney in his dream. He wrote it down when he woke up. The rest is history.


Many stories like these exist when inventors, poets, scientists, writers, and engineers find their "Eureka" moment in the dream.


One of the interesting types of dreams is the "lucid dream." It refers to a situation when you dream and are aware of this. When you have some control over what direction your dream will go. A most famous example of a lucid dream is Chris Nolan's story. The movie Inception was based on a series of lucid dreams the director, Chris Nolan, had. When he sleeps, he wakes in his dreams. These lucid dreams were the foundation of his film, where the characters can control what happens in a dreamscape.


Dreams are a normal part of sleep. An average person dreams for about two hours at night, even though some people can't remember dreams. Most of the scientists in this field agree that dreams have a purpose; what this purpose is an open question. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Calvin S. Hall, and G. William Domhoff wrote books on the purpose and meanings of dreams. Modern science provides us with more information about dreams and sleep stages, but we are still far from something conclusive and concrete. Modern science using functional neuroimaging and other scanning techniques can tell when we dream and often what our dream is about. The only question left is, Why? What is the meaning?


Even though I agree that dreams have purpose and meaning, I question attempts to interpret them. We can easily find a book or person who will gladly do this for a price. Let me explain my doubts. Our upbringing and culture significantly affect our view of the world, events we witness, symbols, and images that dreams provide. One example: In two countries in Europe not far from each other, I asked the same question: "I saw a feather. What does it mean?" I received two different answers. One, “I will soon lose one of my relatives or a close friend.” Second, "I will succeed in my task. An angel follows me." Dreams often have a complex narrative and are always deeply personal. There cannot be a cookie-cutter approach. Many times, no one can decipher the symbolism of our dream except us. If I try to find the meaning of a feather, I need to examine my life. I need to go back, starting with my earlier memories: when feathers appeared, what events followed, and what was my emotional state. What it represents to me through my experiences and culture. There are always connections between dream images and our experiences. Dream experts warn us not to rely on books or "dream dictionaries," which give a specific meaning for a specific dream image or symbol. All these images and symbols are unique to you. Not many people can assist us in this task. I do not deny that talented people who could help us in this exist, but they are rare.


People have long known that solutions to difficult situations can reveal themselves when we sleep. There is a great chance you tell someone, or someone tells you I'd "sleep on it." There is a similar phrase in Eastern Europe: "Morning has more wisdom than evening." A dream researcher, Deirdre Barret, suggested thinking about the problem as you drift to sleep — our brain is designed to find a solution. Be patient. Studies by Don Kuiken and Tore Nielsen indicate that it could take a week or more before solutions emerge.


It is very exciting for me that I can watch my own movie at night — a movie where I am the writer, director, and main hero.


Disclosure: The information on this page is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. Always consult with a qualified health professional.


With love,

Roman

September 1, 2023

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