Each and every organism on Earth shares a common need for sleep. The role of dreaming and our need to relax is somehow embedded into our DNA. And while the time we spend in the dreamscape certainly is a time of rest, it’s also a busy place of maintenance and rejuvenation. Just like a car requires an occasional oil change, so does the brain require regular dream sleep. And our mental state as well as physical performance is greatly reduced when we neglect our dream sleep for too long.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced the effects of sleep deprivation. When it happens, you just know it. We feel less quick with our thinking and our words just won’t quite roll off the tongue when we are experiencing the effects of a missed R.E.M. cycle or two.
So, why do our minds’ struggle when we don’t dream?
The answer is simply that dreaming (on a biological level) literally cleanses the brain and helps organisms maintain mental clarity. A special cleansing agent is released called cerebral spinal fluid as soon as we enter into a state of dreaming. And this fluid discards the toxins that the brain has accumulated since your last sleep cycle.
There’s a lot more to the function of dreaming that deserves deeper consideration as far as human health is concerned, such as the role of dreaming in helping us consolidate our memories, restore our emotions, and restore our sex hormones.
For this reason, I’ve done quite a bit of research on this topic and would like to share with you several known habits that optimize the dreaming experience. Here are 5 effective methods to do just that.
1 –Eat Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts:
By eating fruits and vegetables, we keep the brain clean by burning off quality nutrients through out the day. These foods are known to perform much better as fuel for the brain… much better than low quality meats, and processed foods.
Sadly, as delicious as fast food can be, it’s just not good for the dreaming brain and quality dream sleep is often compromised by eating foods that are difficult to break down, not to mention that they are incredibly bad for your body.
Nuts especially come into play because they are clean sources of energy. In fact, they provide the brain with one of its favorite resources for energy production during sleep – healthy fat. Since the dreaming brain is doing some work, it’s good to have a nice amount of potential fuel for the brain to access during the night and fats are perfect for this because they digest slowly and tend to be the main resource that our brains seeks out for energy production during sleep.
Natural supplements can also be a great way to avoid any deficiencies from your diet that might be conflicting with your sleep cycle. Just be sure that the sleep supplement you choose is natural. Prescription medications are not only dangerous but can often lead to life long dependency.
If you’re looking for a high quality sleep supplement, I personally recommend trying the Twilune formula. But truly there are thousands of isolated herbs, and other blends than might be great for you.
Other diet tips for better dreaming:
-Work off your carbs before going to bed
-Don’t eat for the last 3 hours of the night
-Drink lots of water through out the day (water is also a cleansing agent that will help keep your body and mind clean)
2 – Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule:
The subconscious mind (which is responsible for the dreaming function) is constantly seeking to automate patterns in our lives. And this can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you operate. But it’s important to realize that two parts of the mind operate this way to reduce the amount of attention necessary for the conscious mind to process. So, when the subconscious mind is trying to automate a sleep cycle for our wellbeing but we are constantly shifting our sleep schedule from night to night, it becomes highly unlikely that it will be able to predict, with any degree of accuracy, when it is time to sleep. So, in order to combat this, it’s best to train your subconscious mind through conscious habits that introduce a consistent routine.
Other quick tips for a better sleep schedule:
-Go to sleep at roughly the same time every night.
-Consistently go through the same nightly routine before going to sleep
-Spend time outside
3 – Avoid LCD screens at night:
People greatly underestimate the importance of this tip whenever it comes up. So LCD screens mess with your sleep cycle. The reason they are so bad for your brain is because they interfere with the release of sleep hormones before you go to bed. When it starts getting dark, your body will naturally release melatonin and other chemicals into the brain, which cause sleep. So, if you’re ever staring at your phone late at night and begin to wonder why you can’t fall asleep, just remember that your brain is being told (BY YOU) not to shut off. So, put aside your phone for at least a good 30 – 60 minutes before you plan on being asleep.
4 – READ BEFORE BED
This tip is anecdotal but I would swear by its effectiveness. Here’s why. Reading is one of the best ways you can improve your focus and is also a great way to calm your brain from other external stimuli. Similar to the idea that “dog’s are happier when they learn obedience” there is an interesting truth about the relationship we share with our brain. In all actuality, the brain functions better with discipline. It operates better as we focus, and it actually get’s more exhausted when we don’t zone in on more precise mental performances, such as reading, writing, or anything else that requires focus.
Reading as a sleep optimization technique has repeatedly proved its effectiveness to me and many other people. I recommend reading something in page form that is meaningful to you because you’ll have an easier time focusing. As you do this more and more, you’ll find that you have an easier time relaxing right before you go to sleep. But just as importantly, you’ll be structuring your thoughts better and this often helps you accelerate the dreaming function.
Personally, I find that my dreams often involve the content that I’m reading before bed, which can be fun to watch especially if you have any interest in learning more about your dreams and the way they express metaphors from your daily life.
5 – Keep a dream journal
If you have an interesting dream, write it down. As you think about your dreams more, you’ll find more and more ways that they truly do enrich your life. And as you do this, you’ll train your mind to remember your dreams better, which can help you to make subjective decisions about the daily behavior in your personal life that is either increasing or decreasing your dreaming experience. You can then start making personal changes to your routine in order to optimize your R.E.M. sleep on a regular basis.
Keep in mind that while we all share common ground in things that help us to dream, we are each slightly different and require a unique understanding of ourselves in order to truly progress as a dreamer, or even just to get better R.E.M. sleep.