How to Make The Most Out of Sleep
by Carrol Baker
You might be surprised what some people get up to while they are asleep. It’s been reported that the lyrics of ‘Yesterday’ appeared to Paul McCartney in a dream. Danish Physicist Niels Bohr had a dream that led to discovering the structure of the atom, and Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali painted his dreams. And they aren’t the only ones creating, discovering and shaking things up, all while their eyes are closed.
This is because tapping into the power of your dreams can help your subconscious to solve problems. But not only that, dreams can also offer valuable insight into your general health and wellbeing, and give voice to your creativity.
There are four stages of sleep – aptly named stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and stage 4, followed by Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage which occurs roughly 90 minutes after you initially fall asleep. It’s at this sleep stage where you usually dream. This is because in this sleep phase, brainwaves are far more active.
How to make it work for you
Write down a question. Dr Judith Orloff, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, says think about your question before you sleep and the answer should come to you in the morning.
Get enough sleep. Aim to get seven to eight hours of quality sleep a night to rev your REM into high gear. Conversely without enough REM, it can impact on your ability to learn new skills and form long-term memories.
Hang about in the hypnagogic state. This is the state of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness and where dreams can linger. Don’t rush to wake up. Keep your eyes closed, and breathe evenly and slowly.
Be more observant. Take in what you see from the world around you. Professor Berit Brogaard from The University of Miami says to facilitate the process of remembering dreams, examine your environment more clearly, and focus on your state of awareness during the day. “Mental habits you practice during the day tend to continue in dreams,” she says.
Keep a dream journal. When you wake up write down what you remember before you get out of bed. It might be a fleeting image, a few words, a sign, a colour or shape. Journaling feelings, emotions, and thoughts taps into our rawest and deepest creative self. It gives clarity to thoughts.
Take a power nap at work. Can’t sneak off for a little nap in the lunchroom? A snooze at your desk is the next best thing. It can help you tap into the dream or hypnagogic state. Tore Nielsen from the Université de Montréal, Psychiatry Department – has developed an upright Napping Proceedure.
- Perform your normal work while sitting upright in a chair.
- When drowsy, close your eyes and await a nap.
- Observe all imagery during the transition to sleep.
- On awakening, review the proceeding imagery and neuromuscular (body movement) events.
- Record the details immediately.
- Repeat from step 2.