The official site of the sleep-deprived

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Meditation and Insomnia

Using meditation and yoga to relax during the daytime helps you sleep better at night, showed a study directed by Ramadevi Gourineni, MD, director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Evanston, Illinois (published in ScienceDaily in June 2009). According to Dr. Gourineni, if you suffer from insomnia it’s likely you are in a state of hyperarousal 24/7. 

The study divided participants into two groups. One group practiced Kriya Yoga, which uses meditation to focus attention; the control group didn’t. At the end of the two-month-long trial, the patients who practiced yoga/meditation experienced improved sleep quality and sleep time.

The results of Dr. Gourineni’s study didn’t surprise me, but they did remind me to spend more time relaxing during the daytime. Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do yoga and meditate regularly I sleep better. When I don’t, I lie awake for hours worrying about things I can’t or won’t change, rehashing the day’s most meaningless and miniscule details, and sometimes even gaining what seem to be genuine insights.

One of reasons people meditate is to stop the squirrelly chatter that runs rampant through our minds most of the day. For those of us who suffer from sleep dysfunction, the chatter doesn’t stop when we go to bed. A daily dose of meditation trains us, over time, to turn off the chatter, or at least turn it down.

Here’s another thing I’ve noticed about meditation and sleep: When meditating, I frequently recall my dreams, even those that occurred long ago. Perhaps that’s because during meditation our brainwave frequencies slow from the usual 13–30 cycles per second (when we’re awake and active) to 8–13 cps, closer to the dream state’s 5–8 cps.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do those of you who meditate and/or do yoga find it helps you sleep better? Is it more effective than other forms of relaxation? We invite you to share your thoughts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Overlapping Worlds

Lately I’ve been wondering how much our waking and dream worlds overlap. Of course, we're all familiar with the nightly processing of our daytime issues and how the subconscious communicates advice via dream scenarios. Occasionally we experience dreams that foreshadow things to come in our everyday lives, or journey in our dreams to places that actually exist here on earth––even though we may never have gone there except during sleep.

But a few nights ago, I experienced something new (for me anyway) that caused me to look at the idea from yet another angle. I dreamt a tarantula was in the bedroom and my cat was playing with it. When I awoke in the morning, I noticed she’d pulled out a patch of her fur. Looking closer, I saw about a dozen spider bites on her bare skin!

How much of what’s going on around us are we aware of while we’re asleep? What part of us keeps watch over the waking world and how does it communicate with the dreaming part? Anybody have thoughts or experiences to share about such things? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dream Journeys

Where do we go when we dream? The idea has intrigued and baffled us since before recorded time.

Usually we think of dreams, and the arena where they’re acted out, as being subjective and imaginary––personal fantasies concocted by the unconscious in order to convey information to us while we sleep. And indeed, it appears there’s some truth to this, but it’s only a partial truth. According to some researchers, the level at which nocturnal problem-solving and self-analysis take place is but one neighborhood in the complex landscape of dreams.

Shamans suggest the realm of dreams is actually an alternate reality, a place every bit as “real” as the physical world we inhabit by day. In his book The Art of Dreaming, Carlos Castenada talks about different dream worlds, including the world of inorganic beings. In Dreamscape, Bruce Vance describes the dream environment as an objective territory with its own inherent laws. He says it remains essentially the same when viewed by any dreamer––an idea that contradicts what we’ve been led to believe about the individual nature of dream experiences.

Some of us also journey via dreams to places that exist here on earth––an instantaneous way to travel that eliminates security checks, passports, and jet lag. Several years ago I took a dream trip to what I believed was Africa (even though I’d never been to Africa in waking life). In the dream, which seemed incredibly realistic and vivid, I stood on a plateau overlooking a green lake. When I described what I’d witnessed to globe-trotting friends, they immediately recognized the place as an area of Zimbabwe.

Journeying in the Dreamscape is an option open to anyone who chooses to pursue it. All it takes is intention and a little practice. In fact, you may have already done some dream traveling without realizing it. Have you journeyed in your dreams? What worlds have you visited? What experiences did you bring back? Please share your adventures with us––pictures anyone?