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Surprisingly enough, I do not completely reject the notion of dream interpretation, though to paraphrase Sheldon Cooper, astrology is complete hokum.

The reason why I consider dream interpretation slightly more realistic is because rather than¬†narcissistically¬†claiming self-importance or self-worth based on arbitrarily defined constellations, dreams are a product of one’s self. Don’t get me wrong, the entire “industry” for dream interpretation is basically a scam to lure in the weak minded, but at its core, a dream is a series of information that your brain is processing during REM sleep. Often, it can manifest in mundane ways, but sometimes the dream is abstract (my favourite) and is thus more confusing. The crux of the matter here is that a dream is simply an obscure collection of information that you already know – thus dreams cannot predict the future (in any useful way) or any of that other nonsense, but they can be a manifestation of your current concerns.

I wrote this article with a post I had in mind where I interpreted someone’s dream for them, but unfortunately I think that person removed his post so I can’t use it as an example. Suffice to say it was an abstract desert setting in which he came under attack by mysterious riders, one of whom (the only one whose face he could see) was a beautiful woman. I interpreted the barren, primitive setting as an allusion to abandonment and isolation, the attack as a feeling of alienation and victimisation, and the woman as a latent sexual frustration. Combined, I saw the dream as a manifestation of the poster’s feeling of loneliness, caused by a constant lack of success with women, to the point where his automatic reaction to them was one of defence (they being the source of some pain), and the specific woman’s face to be indicative of one particular girl at the current time that he’s been thinking of. Naturally, I made this interpretation without any contextual knowledge of the person, which may have increased the accuracy, but surprisingly he responded a few days later that it was indeed very accurate and that he had been struggling with the exact issues I mentioned.

Anyway, the point here is he already knew he had these issues – so the dream in itself is only telling yourself something you already know. In that regard, it’s an exercise in futility to try and discover something profoundly important in your own dreams because the dream itself will only contain information you already know.

It’s interesting that the majority of dream interpretation involves some sort of latent sexuality. The majority of Sigmund Freud’s dream interpretation works involve sexual symbols (the snake, the number three, the playing of an instrument, etc.) as well as egotism. These are all really just indicators that behind all the pretense, sex and narcissism are hugely important factors to humans.

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Well, maybe not everything but here are some interesting things about sleep some people may not know. Sleep is not as simple as closing your eyes and losing consciousness for a few hours. There are two states of sleep: REM and non-REM (where REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement). NREM sleep has four stages and the sleep cycle moves from stages one to four of NREM sleep before entering REM sleep. This cycle then repeats.

NREM:

Stage 1: The individual begins to fall asleep, lasting around five to ten minute. Eye and muscle movement begin to slow and the individual is easily awakened.

Stage 2: The individual enters light sleep, lasting around ten to twenty five minutes. Eye movement stops, heart rates slows, and body temperature decreases.

Stage 3: The individual begins deep sleep. No eye or muscle movement.

Stage 4: The individual is in deep sleep. Difficult to wake individual and if wakened, the individual will feel groggy and disorientated. Blood flow is directed away from the brain towards the muscle, restoring physical energy.

REM: Arms and legs paralysed, breathing shallow, rapid eye movement, vivid dreaming occurs and REM sleep refreshes the mind.

So what’s the significance? Well, deep sleep is achieved in stages three and four of NREM sleep. If you are wakened in stage one you tend to feel poorly rested. A small period of dreaming occurs at the end of the cycle in REM sleep. In general, a sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes (65 minutes of NREM, 20 minutes of REM, followed by a final 5 minutes of NREM).

Sleep tips:

So what does all this mean? Using this knowledge (and some info I haven’t included yet), we can draw these conclusions, which I consider some tips on sleeping well.

  • You should try to plan your sleep so that you sleep for a duration that is a multiple of 90 minutes (length of a sleep cycle).
  • Sleep deprivation is from inadequate deep sleep (stages three and four); being woken in the middle of the night and sleeping late can limit your deep sleep.
  • Sleeping late/during the day is bad because your circadian rhythm (biological clock) is regulated by processes in the brain that distinguish between light and dark. At night, your body responds to the darkness by producing melatonin, a hormone that induces sleepiness. During the day, sunlight causes your brain to limit the production of melatonin. Your circadian rhythm gets disrupted by sleeping at inappropriate times and travelling through time zones.
  • Six hours of sleep is not enough – just because you can function on less sleep doesn’t mean that you are functioning optimally. Adults are recommended 7.5 to 9 hours sleep.
  • If you find it hard to wake up to your alarm, it’s most likely because you were woken during stage three or four (deep sleep). Refer back to the first tip to avoid this.
  • Sleep debt cannot be repaid in just a few instalments. It’s best to repay sleep debt in multiple instalments (one or two hours extra per night until the debt is over, rather than all five hours at once).
  • Apples are more effective than coffee at waking you up in the morning. Also, your body adjusts to caffeine so that over time, it becomes less effective so if you like drinking coffee to wake yourself, try not to drink it all the time or it loses its potency
  • Getting up straight away after you wake up is better for you than hitting snooze over and over

I think everyone knows enough about lucid dreaming already since the Inception craze. I think I might follow up this post with something about Inception later.

 

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