How To Make Sure You’re Keeping Up With Your Dream Health
No-one knows why we have them, exactly, or where they come from. There are some theories that dreams are our subconscious giving us subtle clues about our deepest desires, anxieties and concerns.
Other times, they’re just a whole lot of nonsense. All we know is that they are a fundamental part of being human and are deeply mysterious, albeit absolutely integral, to our sense of self.
No matter what kind of dreams you’re having – from lucid, conscious ones where you can control your dream environment to wild, creative moments that inspire you when you wake up – you need to be cultivating and caring for your dream health. It’s not enough to simply lay down on your pillow and drift off. You need to be caring as much about your dreams as you do other parts of your health. And this is how.
1. Keep a dream journalEver wake up from a night’s sleep certain that you had the most fantastical dream but can’t remember a single thing? Having a poor dream memory is really common, but it’s unhealthy. Remembering your dreams is the first step towards understanding them.
Try keeping a dream journal by your bed so that every morning when you wake up you jot down, quickly, what it is that you dreamt. You can be as creative or as simple as you want here, but remember to date your entries and give them a title, like you would a film. All of this helps your dream recall and will allow you to see patterns in your dreams.
If you find your dreams disappearing from your memory too quickly to write them down, try keeping some descriptions in your notes app or recording a little snippet into your iPhone’s voice notes or recorder. You can always transcribe it later. (Plus, listening back to your crazy dreams might make you laugh).
2. Talk to friends about themHealthy dreams are shared ones, not kept private. Finding a friend that you can become dream buddies with, sharing last night’s dreams and discussing what they might mean, is a really important part of having a strong, healthy dream practice.
This could be someone that you meet up with once a week or it could be someone living far from you but with whom you communicate on text or on the phone. You could also set up a shared Instagram or social media account to document your dreams.
3. Detox your sleep routineHaving trouble dreaming? It might be because your sleep routine is all out of whack. If you’re drinking too much coffee during the day, downing a bottle of wine before bed, smoking cigarettes (or other smoke-able substances), and generally head off to bed feeling stressed and anxious about your day’s work you’re unlikely to have healthy dreams that you can remember.
Like most aspects of sleep, dreaming is something we take for granted and that we occasionally abuse. Taking the time to craft a careful, considered bedtime routine free of stimulants, stresses and the strain of technology will help you when it comes your dreams.
4. Try to go lucidLucid dreaming, or the kind of dreams where you become aware that you are dreaming and can take charge of your dream landscape, is the pinnacle of a healthy dream practice. Though there are other types of dreams that people can have, such as pre-cognitive or predictive dreams, lucid dreams are the kind that most people aspire to have.
This is because a lucid dream is a powerful thing. Being lucid in a dream state has been proven to help with emotional trauma like PTSD and can serve as creative impetus and inspiration. There have been records of musicians waking up from a lucid dream with complete pieces of music and writers dreaming storylines for books or poems while in a lucid dream state.
Before going lucid you’re going to have to train your brain with a combination of mindfulness and affirmations, repeated every night before sleep that you will go lucid during your dreams. That’s the easy part. The mindfulness part is about becoming present and detail-oriented, both things that will help you go lucid in a dream state. Many lucid dreamers look at their hands every day, taking in every fingernail and line, every freckle and vein. Then, when you enter a dream world and look at your hands, the ritual will register in your brain and signal to you that you are dreaming. From there, you can start to control your dreams and use them in different ways.
5. Be patient
But going lucid comes with a caveat: It takes time. Like with any health practice, from learning to meditate to going to the gym, you have to be patient. You won’t have a lucid dream overnight. Chip away slowly at your dream defences and work on improving your dream health first. After that, everything will fall into place.
Good luck, and sweet dreams.
Now that we’re on the topic, here are 10 simple ways to enhance the quality of your sleep – starting from tonight! – plus the 7 things making you tired… that have nothing to do with how much you’re sleeping.