For two years, while in my 40’s, I kept a dream diary. Someone suggested the idea when I’d complained about a recurrent nightmare that haunted me. Having no alternative, I gave the idea a try and discovered the more I welcomed my dreams, the more vivid they became. Some of them fascinated me, others were too obscure to interpret, and still others seemed no more than a rehash of my day. The reoccurring nightmare continued during this process, however — not every night but as much a two or three times a week.
After recording my dreams for a while, I began to see patterns which I took to be symbols floating up from my unconscious. To understand them, I had to pay close attention, but eventually, I worked out the meaning of my troubled dream. Once I understood it, the solution became clear and with a slight course correction in my life, the dream disappeared.
Early dream research suggests some symbols from the unconscious are universal, cutting across cultures. But I suspect most arise from our personal experiences and are unique to us. That makes paying attention to them important because no book can provide a reliable interpretation. Each of us must learn the language of our unconscious.
Unlike dreams, sleep, itself, is becoming less of a mystery. We know its restorative power, of course. Everyone feels better after a good night’s rest. But research has learned a bit more. During the sleep cycle, the brain uses less energy and so the size of its cells shrink. The wider corridors that are created allow more cerebrospinal fluid to circulate which, in turn, washes away cellular waste, largely beta-amyloid, the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease. (“Sleep Washes the Brain,” The Week, November 8, 2013, pg. 19) This discovery “suggests that adequate sleep may be important in slowing the progress of brain damage.” (Ibid 19)
Of all the recent findings science has made, this last one is my favorite. I’ve never felt guilty about taking an afternoon nap, but it’s nice to know I have a medical justification for it.
(Courtesy of downtownya.blogspot.com)