Tag Archives: Sleep disorder

The Sleep Study Results are In. Hold the Drum Roll. (5th installment in the series)

This post is part of an ongoing series about what happens when an active dreamer goes in for a sleep study. Click here to read the first post in the series.

My doctor ordered a sleep study for me to see if I had sleep apnea or another condition that was degrading the quality of my sleep and leaving me feeling tired and worn down by day. But I had a question of my own: “Is all my dreaming exhausting me?”

The stakes were high. I have always valued my active dream life (recalling several dreams each morning—usually in vivid and abundant detail). My dreams inspire poems, help me make decisions, comfort me in times of despair, and give me fresh perspectives on my daytime experiences. “But what if the solution to your sleep woes is a course of treatment that diminishes your dreams?” one doctor asked me early on. I decided that was something I’d have to risk.

Interesting results–but not in a good way

And now, at last, the results of the sleep study are in. (Hold the drum roll, prepare instead for anti-climax.) Other than a fair amount of snoring (who, me?) it appears I have no sleep-related conditions of concern.

Good news, yes. But was the report satisfying? Not at all.

The process of undergoing a sleep study in and of itself was interesting—but not necessarily in a good way. I found myself immersed in a system that values sleep, but that seemed to devalue dreams, ignoring them except as possible symptoms of sleep disorders.

As the weeks between my initial intake, the study itself, and awaiting the results wore on, I began to question my own thinking and long-held beliefs: Was it possible that the dreams I so cherished, relied on for guidance, wisdom, healing, and comfort, were nothing more than a symptom of some sleep disorder or pathology? I asked this question to myself, and posed it in one of my blog posts as well.

One of my long-time readers and friends replied to that post, saying in a comment what I’ve always known, but needed to be reminded of: “Your dreams are not symptoms of illness nor are they a defect—they are a gift.”

5-pages and an insight

The 5-page report of my sleepless night in the sleep lab indicated that I was asleep for about 7 hours. This didn’t match up with my experience at all, where I noted in my journal that I slept about 3-4 hours in total all night long. When I raised this discrepancy with the doctor I was working with, she said that it’s possible to be sleeping lightly and conscious at the same time. In any case, this twilight sleep, if sleep it was, is so different from my normal sleeping experience that it didn’t seem worthy of too much attention. In fact, I slept so poorly at the sleep lab that I can learn little about my sleep or dream life from the experience.

But from a medical point of view, doctors were able to measure my heartbeat, body movements, and brain waves to determine what they were after: No apnea, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. No explanation, in short, for my daytime drowsiness.

The doctors can’t say whether the nighttime dreaming I do is affecting my ability to achieve adequate rest, despite getting 71/2-8 hours of sleep a night. I suppose the culprit could well be the multitude of daytime dreams I pursue.

Either way, I’m going with my friend’s advice:

If the dreams do make me tired, so be it! They are extraordinary gifts that add meaning and interest to my life. So if you see me yawning during the day, don’t take offense, and don’t be concerned—I’ve decide that some daytime drowsiness is worth the price of admission to a wonderful world of dreams.

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To read the entire series about a dreamer’s experience in the sleep lab:

Click here to read the first post in the series.

Click here to read the second post in the series.

Click here to read the third post in the series.

Click here to read the previous post in the series.

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Grateful Dreamers Sleep Better

Saying thank you for a good night’s sleep

Purple-throated Carib hummingbird (Eulampis ju...
Image via Wikipedia

According to researchers in a 2009 study conducted at the School of Psychology in Manchester, England, daytime personality traits such as neuroticism, anxiety, anger, and stress, negatively impact one’s quality of sleep. Conversely, positive personality traits, like expression of gratitude, can improve the quality of sleep.

People who fall asleep focusing on gratitude, the study says, sleep better and longer, and have a more positive outlook in the morning.

What do you have to lose? Go to sleep thankful.

Ten Wonderful Things

In my book Joy in Every Moment I suggest a variety of a simple gratitude practices. This is my favorite bedtime gratitude practice:

  • As you fall asleep think of 10 Wonderful Things about the day that just passed.
  • Be sure to look for small wonderful details, in addition to the big ticket items. You can feel just as grateful for the sight of a hummingbird hovering above the bird feeder outside your window as you can about getting a promotion at work.
  • As you think of each Wonderful Thing, re-experience it in your imagination, calling to mind all of the sensory details of the experience (taste, smell, sounds, texture, visual details, etc.)
  • Hold each experience in your mind for the length of several gentle, relaxed breaths.
  • Feel your heart fill with gratitude as you recall each of these wonderful moments.

From now on, rather than counting sheep, use this practice to count your blessings as you drift into sleep.

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Learn to improve your sleep and learn from your dreams. Contact me for a dream consultation.

Citation:
Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Wood AM, Joseph S, Lloyd J, Atkins S. School of Psychology, University of Manchester, Manchester, England, UK. 2009. alex.wood@manchester.ac.uk; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19073292

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Dream Therapist, Heal Thyself (Or, how I learned to take my own advice)

Creating a Sleep Sanctuary

It's true, I sleep better in my new, improved, sleep sanctuary.

On a recent visit home, my adult daughter walked into my bedroom and exclaimed that enough was enough! She declared that the blankets on my bed, a mish mash of hand-me-downs from my mother that I’ve been using for decades and the cast-off blankets my daughter left behind when she went off to college, were “unacceptable” and that I deserve better.

When she was born, an astrologer told me that my now 23-year-old daughter’s tastes would run toward the regal. And as the years unfolded, I learned that the stars didn’t lie! My daughter has always been drawn to all that glitters! She loves designer clothes, fine jewelry, and luxury items of all kinds. Unfortunately, my budget was never quite kingly, so I spent a lot of time trying to teach my extravagance-loving daughter frugality.

So, when she made her declaration about my bedroom I immediately took my default position: “There’s nothing wrong with these blankets. They keep me warm!”

But my daughter would hear none of it. She insisted on setting a date to take me shopping for new … matching! … blankets and pillows.

I put her off for weeks. But in the meantime, as part of my campaign to improve the quality of my sleep, I began using the Zeo sleep monitor [read more about that experiment here] and signing up for their sleep coaching emails.

Among the Zeo Sleep Coach’s suggestions was one that, in my capacity as a Dream Therapist, I often offer to others: Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep.

Suddenly I saw my daughter’s insistence on upgrading my bedding in a new light. I realized that my bedroom was not quite the sleep sanctuary I advised others to create. It was, quite frankly, shabby.

So, I took her up on her offer and off we went to Bed Bath & Beyond. To satisfy my frugal side I brought along a handful of coupons. My luxury-loving daughter helped me pick out a beautiful new bedding set, patiently answering my protests (“Who needs matching pillows?” “You do!” “I don’t need a throw blanket.” “Yes you do!” etc.).

Finally we purchased a beautiful purple and lavender set of blankets, sheets, pillow shams and even a throw.

It was truly a gift for me to realize that my daughter had plenty to teach me about pampering and caring for myself. Meanwhile on the checkout line I took the opportunity to point out how much money I’d saved using my coupons–because I still have plenty to teach her about making the most of her money.

As for my sleep; I must say it worked. I am sleeping more soundly in my new sleep sanctuary.

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You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. Here are a few easy steps you can take:

  • Eliminate clutter to make your sleep environment feel relaxed and spacious.
  • Use heavy curtains or shades to eliminate as much light as possible. A dark room is essential for a good night’s sleep.
  • Backlit digital clocks and electronic equipment all emit light. Limit or eliminate the number of light sources in the room.
  • If you have a phone in your bedroom, turn off the ringer when you go to sleep. If you keep your cell phone in your room turn it to “airplane mode” so that it doesn’t send and receive signals while you sleep. This will eliminate the possibility of being woken by a text message or call, but will allow you to use the phone’s alarm clock, as well as the voice memo feature of your phone for recording your dreams.
  • Check your mattress and pillows. Are they still comfortable? If not, it may be time to replace them.
  • Candles, incense, and some decorative cozy pillows are all accessories that can give your room a cozy, inviting feel.
  • Use a lavender-scented eye pillow to help you relax into sleep.

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Contact me for an individual dream consultation, including advice on how to create a healthy sleep environment, and how to recall and work with your dreams.

 

 

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