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Improve Dream Sleep for Better Overall Health

Feb 28, 2022 ● By Lee Adams
 a woman sleeping amongst the clouds

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

In ancient Greece, sleep and dreaming were considered some of the most critical aspects of the human experience. Fast forward a couple of millennia, and they have a very different reputation. Today we often value ourselves based on how little sleep we can get by on, and dreaming (if we dream at all) is considered little more than a byproduct of the content of our days.

Research has shown us that sleep is not only significant, but necessary for us to function properly physically and mentally. During sleep, our physical bodies repair themselves and essential hormones are manufactured that affect our mood and alertness during the day. Dreaming has been found to contribute to creativity, reduced anxiety and innovation.

Recent studies have found important connections between sleep and dreams that significantly impact our health. Essentially, when we sleep better, we dream better—and paying attention to our dreams helps us feel better when we’re awake, creating a virtuous cycle of improving health and well-being.

The latest sleep and dreaming research also offers us practical guidance on how to improve our sleep, make friends with our dreams and improve our overall health. These simple practices can lead to significant improvements.

Develop Sleep-Friendly Daytime Habits

We’ve all heard the advice that a good night’s sleep begins with a relaxing, sleep-optimizing bedtime routine. Actually, it begins in the morning with our daytime routines. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and other oily fish, flax and chia seeds, and walnuts promote healthy sleep. Foods high in tryptamines, including chicken and turkey, encourage healthy sleep cycles and help us feel sleepy (there’s a reason we want a nap after the Thanksgiving feast). And be sure to get adequate exercise; enough that the body and mind feel pleasantly exhausted when bedtime rolls around.

Create a Bedtime Routine that’s Calm, Quiet and Dark

Tidy the bedroom: It should be used mainly for sleeping, so keep it free of clutter or distracting objects, including screens. Our more animalistic minds perceive clutter as a hiding place for potential threats, preventing the hormonal balance required for good sleep. Removing the clutter allows for our anxieties to lessen and more profound relaxation.

Turn down the mental chatter: Mind-calming activities such as meditating, light reading or journaling can not only release tension in the body, but also put the mind into a calm, restful state. Meditation is also helpful in exploring dreams.

Turn off the lights: Our eyes are designed to absorb light and transmit it to specific areas of the brain. One such area is the pineal gland. Any amount of light that enters the eyes after sundown, even with eyes closed, will disrupt the pineal gland’s production of melatonin. This disrupts our feeling of drowsiness when it’s time for bed. Poor melatonin production can also hurt the immune system, so dim lights in the home after sunset and remove all possible light from the bedroom when it’s time to go to sleep. Blackout window shades and sleep masks can further dim the space when there are exterior lights or if it is necessary to sleep during the day.

Keep a Dream Journal

Journaling at bedtime can serve as a form of self-talk where we remind ourselves it’s okay to let go of our waking worries and responsibilities and rest. Keeping a dream journal can help us remember our dreams; with practice, we begin to look forward to sleep in order to find out what comes next in our often weird, always unique, dream world. Dream journaling brings our waking attention to our unconscious expression, allowing us to release stress and ultimately, get better sleep.

Dream On

Building better sleep habits and making room for dreaming are far from antiquated. They are foundational to our well-being. Not only is restful sleep essential for day-to-day health, but getting to know our dreams can bring a more holistic vision of ourselves and where we’re going.

Lee Adams is a dream guide, the author of A Visionary Guide to Lucid Dreaming, and a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian psychology and archetypal studies. For more information, visit