How diving deep into sleep changed my waking life forever
What if we could change the way we dream? And what if that could have tremendous effects on our waking life?
It’s no secret that how we sleep is closely connected to how we feel throughout the day. But when I started researching lucid dreaming and dream meditation, I had no idea just how much paying attention to my dreams would shape how I was living my life.
For as long as humans have been recording ideas, dreams have fascinated our species. From prophetic dreams of catastrophe and war in Greek mythology, to Freud’s work on using dreams as a tool to unlocking the unconscious, we’ve seen visionaries across captivated by the power of dreams throughout centuries.
Whether you believe that a shaman in the Amazon can use dreams to see the future, or would be more likely to argue that dreams are as much a figment of the imagination as a slumbering Shakespearean character, it’s clear that there’s something about dreams that beg to be uncovered.
I set out to crack the dream code 6 years ago. Based on my reading and research, I had a few basic premises I was interested in testing:
We sleep better when we don’t dream. Therefore the most restful sleep will be one in which I don’t dream.
Dreams can tell us something about ourselves. Therefore if I keep a dream diary and write down everything I can remember, I’ll start to learn more about myself.
Dreams can show us something about the future. Therefore, by referencing entries from my dream journal, over time and careful record I will find out if my dreams were, in fact, showing anything about what might lie ahead.
After keeping a dream diary for years, here’s what I’ve found:
I do sleep better when I don’t dream.
The clearest, most restful sleep for me comes when I wake up as a blank slate. When I dream, I find I wake up with emotional attachment or a feeling. While it might be vague, sometimes the feeling is very strong and overpowering. The practice of Tibetan Dream Yoga states that rather than our goal being “lucid dreaming” where we can control our dreams, we should aspire for non-dreaming. This confirms that dreaming does engage our consciousness on some level, and we are able to achieve a more pure state of rest and rejuvenation for our minds when we don’t dream.
Now, how does one dream less? I noticed that my dreaming was triggered by room temperature (too hot/too cold = dreams), alcohol or caffeine (too much/ too late in the day = dreams), food (too much/too late/too spicy = dreams) and stress (high emotion/ increased excitement = dreams).
The result of trying to dream less meant that I began to maintain a more regulated sleep environment. This meant that I added an extra blanket (I found that weight helped me relax), tried to manage evening meals and drinking, and keep my stress in check through out the day. While I started out doing these things to dream less, I found that they all helped me lead a more balanced and nourished lifestyle.
I do know more about myself from my dreams — but not in the way I expected.
Keeping a dream journal forced me to reflect on what was happening in my life. As I wrote my dreams down or interpretations, I found out that even if I had no idea what a dream meant, the way I was inclined to interpret it could tell me something about myself. The words I used to frame the dream on the page actually provided more insight into my thoughts and emotions, more so than what the dreams meant. It was similar to keeping a diary, and I could see the way my mindset and attitude changes over time.
Another way that the dream journal helped me was to refine my morning routine. It forced me to write down my thoughts immediately upon waking up, rather than check my phone or email. This small shift managed to set a positive mood for my morning. It gave me time to tap into myself and have a moment to reflect with intention before diving into a world of technology, screens, and go-go-go mentality.
Dreams showed me nothing about the future, but they did give insight on my past.
To the surprise of no one, I’m no Shaman. In my time recording dreams, I never had a dream that was able to see the future. That said, I did feel more aligned with my intuition and tapped into my subconscious.
Over the years, the practice helped me be more mindful and open to how multifaceted our consciousness is. It helped me start days with more integrity, and be more aware of how my evening habits were affecting my sleep.
Ultimately, my exploration in sleep helped me feel more rested and be more productive during the day. I noticed that I had more clarity, and was able to connect the dots when it came to ideas and concepts sooner both professionally and personally.
While I can’t claim to be a master in lucid dreaming or seeing the future, I can claim to know myself a bit better, and feel a bit more rested along the way.
Originally published at medium.com