Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | Shawwal 6, 1445 H
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Doing my best work, in sleep mode

Sleep, with or without dreams, recharges and revitalises us
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We sleep for between a quarter and a third of our lives, that being somewhere between the equivalent of six and nine thousand days, or put another way, fifteen to twenty five years of our lives. That’s a whopping chunk of life isn’t it... yet we don’t know, or think, a whole lot about it. Do we?

Sleep is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a condition of body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the eyes are closed, the postural muscles relaxed, the activity of the brain altered, and consciousness of the surroundings practically suspended.” That is a more complex way of saying that we give our bodies a rest from the rigours of our day. So that’s the physical perspective of sleep.

Playwright William Shakespeare sought, in Hamlet, to make sense of the condition writing; “To sleep, perchance to dream — ay, there’s the rub.” We must sleep, he reasoned, to dream, and that our afterlife may well be full of dreams. We are though, here to live, to act, and achieve, though to dream can be a somewhat pleasant diversion, or an unpleasant, unsettling experience. With that in mind, we can learn a little more about sleep, dreams, and nightmares.

Psychologically, sleep is referred to by Brinkman, Reddy, and Sharma, as having four developed theories as to why we sleep being the inactivity, restoration, energy conservation, and brain plasticity theories. Inactivity theory harks back to caveman existence, when man slept at night because animals were less likely to attack them. Energy conservation responds, again from origin, to the fact that our body metabolism decreases by 10 per cent when we sleep. Personally, that comes as a surprise. I thought that would have been significantly higher.

The restorative perspective alludes to the replenishment of tissues, protein, and muscular repair, which makes sense thinking of the physical perspective. Finally, the delightfully labelled ‘brain plasticity,’ is all about the necessity for neurological development and reorganisation, particularly during childhood, infancy, and puberty, when our sleep needs increase to twelve or fourteen hours each day.

Sigmund Freud wrote that dreams, “come from a person’s unconscious mind, and represent his or her most secret fears and desires.” His explanation being that only in deep sleep, when our thought processes are ‘silent’ do our otherwise suppressed emotions emerge, manifesting themselves as our desires, in dreams, or our fears, in nightmares.

Our dreams, our pleasant dreams, are interpretations of random signals from our brains and bodies, while we are sleeping and are meant to represent not only our body’s wants, but its needs. We dream subjectively, personally, emotionally, and above all, perceptively. That’s probably why we so often have déjà vu experiences. Mostly though, if we dream of affection or love... that’s what we want or need. If we dream about a buffet or a feast, we are indeed probably hungry.

On the other hand, it is widely accepted that our nightmarish experiences come most often in a recurrent manner, and reflect an issue that we cannot resolve, something that will not go away, something not only recurrent, but persistent. Post-traumatic nightmares, as the name implies, are associated with traumatic life experiences and memories, and may be a root cause themselves of idiopathic experiences.

These more intense, and often unpleasant idiopathic experiences usually result from anxieties, depression, and even psychotic issues. Often in such situations we experience difficulty getting to sleep, exacerbating their unconscious distress, and then the unpleasant nightmare becomes just another layer of reproof. Surely these must be the most debilitating of all.

Sleep, with or without dreams, recharges and revitalises us. The Emperor Napoleon said, of his Empress Josephine, and more recently appropriated by Ewelina U Ochab, writing, “Let China sleep, for when she awakens, she will shake the world.” That we can all be inspired, made to act, or invigorated by a common source piques ones interest and prompts more questions than answers. But take your time, and sleep on it!

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