Moment for Health: To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

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dreamingThe room spilled its large wood floor across to four adjacent walls, the wide planks stretched long making the space bigger than it was.

Above, a large chandelier hovered precariously above the now rotted flooring, ready to drop should anyone dare cross under its nebulous glow.

My hands shook as I reached for the door leading out of the room. Instantly I was on the other side, the wood floor a darker color and full of dust, windows lining each wall.

A broom stood outside one of the windows, so I opened it to grab the handle and fell out in slow motion, falling and falling like Alice in her Wonderland, landing in a pile of sand in the same room.

A man with a beard wearing sunglasses sat in a beach chair way on top of the sand pile and waved an American flag at me. A frog sprang out of his head.

The surrealism started to hit my senses and at this point I knew I must be dreaming. Half awake I pulled my heavy-lidded eyes open, grasping for the morning light and was left with these words playing through my head….tomorrow’s sand  melts to peanut butter as flying frogs balance barking toads.

Dreams are a funny thing (and so is eating peanut butter just before bedtime). I always figured dreams are a healthy part of sleep and more fascinating at times than a science fiction novel. And indeed dreams are a healthy part of life. They play a role in our emotional health, our memory and learning, and provide a way for our brain to categorize our daily doings.

Dreams dramatize and play out daily emotional concerns and worries that get schlept to the back of our minds and to-do lists. Yet for our body’s physical health, the importance of the brain activity behind the dreaming, the REM phases and then non-REM phases gives us our rest in our sleep.

The brain during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) part of the sleep cycle has brainwave patterns similar to those recorded during wakefulness. Maybe that is why dreams seem so real! The non-REM phases are the deep sleep where the brain waves move at a much slower rate, or delta sleep as it is called. Here the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle and strengthens the immune system.

But intense dreaming always occurs during REM and the percentage of REM is highest during infancy and early childhood. Infants can spend up to 50% of their sleep in REM. Adults only 20% or 90-120 minutes of a night’s sleep.

And yes, we all dream just some people don’t remember once they wake up. Yet the rest of us who do recall only get to remember about 10% of really what went on during dreaming. The other 90% of the figments are scrambled and rearranged outside our memory banks and forgotten.

Another type of dreaming, precognitive, seems to happen to a good percentage of people. Here dreams foretell of an event or happening to the dreamer, certainly a clear defiance to the linear timeline we live by.

So is there anything that can help retain a dream? Keeping a journal by the bed so the minute you awaken, you write what you remember. This can reinforce remembering and bring the dreams up through the foggy daze of waking up easier and easier.

Drinking a glass of water before bed has been a trick for some to wake up from a dream in the middle of the night and immediately write it down in a journal.

I also believe cutting out the use of computers a couple hours before going to bed regulates better sleep and possibly a better dream state.

Light in the eyes through the body’s chain of command regulates melatonin levels. Exposure to artificial light after dusk and before bedtime can reduce melatonin levels, inhibiting sleep patterns and affecting the dream state.

Yet maybe the answer is simply found in a humble spoonful of peanut butter to make the dreamer dream a string of memorable dreams only the sandman can bring.

Contact Gina Dostler at [email protected].


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