The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deemed America’s sleep deficit an epidemic. There are many reasons we are tossing and turning into the wee hours of the night. But here’s one that I’d like to add to the list: We just don’t like–or value–sleep. Consider how we talk about sleep and dreams. We use words and phrases like these:
We say we’re going to “turn in” for the night, when our behaviors indicate that we prefer to “tune out.” Turning in implies that we’re turning inward. But we live in a culture that encourages our outgoing nature, not an internal, reflective routine. If you don’t believe me, try to sit down for five minutes when you’re feeling sad, bored, angry or disappointed. How long does it take before you decide to get up and get something to eat, reach for your phone, or start tapping your toe or jiggling your change? Even when we’re feeling content and happy, we’re more likely to engage, distract, or entertain ourselves, rather than get still and quiet and truly turn inward.
We wish each other good night and sweet dreams, but most of us make no effort to recall or understand our dreams. When I tell people I am a professional dreamworker, I’m often met with an uncomfortable laugh followed by responses such as: “Why would anyone want to remember their dreams?” People tell me dreams are too bizarre, mystifying, or disturbing to recall. But dreams are a natural and healthy byproduct of sleep. So, in order to really mean what we say, we need to start befriend our dreams and sweeten up our relationship toward them.
“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” We say this to our children and loved ones. No wonder no one is rushing to get into bed and stay there for 8 hours or more. Who wants to sleep tight. That sounds terrible! As for bedbugs … I’m feeling itchy all over just thinking about them.
We say we want to sleep like a baby. But I’ve done that, and I don’t recommend it. When my daughter was an infant, I had no choice. I slept just the way my baby did: for a couple of hours at a time, and after a while, when she woke crying, I was ready to scream from sleep deprivation myself. Lately I’ve been sleeping like a baby again: In middle age I sometimes wake several times a night to use the bathroom, and once again I feel like screaming in frustration from lack of sleep, just like a baby. I’d rather sleep like an adolescent myself. The teenagers I’ve known can sleep 10-12 hours at a stretch and snooze through several alarms. Sounds good to me!
I want to help you fall back in love with sleep and dreaming. Let’s start with how we talk about bed, bedtime, night, sleep and dreams.
For now, watch what you say and think as bedtime approaches. Choose your words and thoughts carefully and affirm that you will sleep, dream, and wake well.
If you’re ready to sleep and dream better, book a dreamwork consultation with me and we can talk about taking a mindful approach to bedtime, and discovering the meaning and messages in your dreams to support you all day long.
My book The Mindful Approach to a Good Night’s Sleep is chock full of information and exercises to support you in sleeping and dreaming better. And it’s now available for pre-order!
Originally published at tziviagover.com