How to calm election jitters and get a good night of sleep
Vancouver, BC, Canada, October 18, 2019
Are you losing sleep over the federal election? You are not alone. Canada, a once peace-loving, level-headed nation, is now sharply divided much like our southern neighbour over a whole host of contentious issues ranging from the pipelines and energy, housing crisis, climate change, and wealth tax, to indigenous rights and immigration.
Amidst all the polarizing issues and intense conflicts, how does one not feel anxious and irritated but stay cool, calm and collected instead? The answer can be found in dreams.
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, otherwise known as dream sleep, has been proven to be critical in restoring the brain’s chemistry and mood regulation.
Contrary to the mainstream belief that people rarely dream, we dream abundantly and spend a significant amount of our lives dreaming – about 2 hours per day and 6 years in total over an average lifespan. We dream typically during REM cycles. On any given night, we may have 4-6 dreams, even though we forget 95% of them within 5 minutes after waking up.
When we dream, our brains are as active as when we are awake, while our bodies are paralyzed. Only during the dreaming stage, our brains stop releasing the anxiety-triggering molecule noradrenaline, allowing our minds to heal by calmly rearranging upsetting memories from stressful sometimes traumatic events.
The lack of sleep, especially REM or dream sleep is a key contributor to mood irritability in addition to heart diseases, diabetes, obesity, and depression. People often address sleep deprivation by using sleeping medications, alcohol, and cannabis. Unfortunately, while they may be effective in inducing sleep, they diminish the quality of REM sleep and dreaming. Mood enhancers such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can also disturb REM sleep and dreaming and reduce your natural ability to overcome emotional stress.
To keep your sanity in troubled times or any time, it's essential to get enough REM sleep and dreaming. To do so, you must give yourself at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep time so that you can gradually sink deeper with each sleep cycle to experience the longest, most healing REM sleep just before waking time.
If you find yourself stressing over random thoughts in the dark and unable to fall asleep, you can try to regulate your breathing to slow down your mind. I once learnt a simple breathing technique that has always worked for me. It's called "Deep, Slow, Soft, Quiet". At bedtime, turn off the lights and lie comfortably with your head and body fully supported. Close your eyes and breath slowly following the instructions below. You should practice it a few times when you are awake so that you will remember how to do it at bedtime.
1. Inhale, and think the word "deep"
2. Exhale, and think the word "slow"
3. Inhale, and think the word "soft"
4. Exhale, and think the word "quiet"
Beyond a good night of rest and restoration, your dreams also provide valuable insights that can help you navigate life. They are accurate and timely reflections of unconscious feelings based on waking time experiences and contain clues for finding life's purpose and meaning.
Dream interpretation is not difficult to learn. You don't have to go to a psychotherapist, priest, or fortune teller to make sense of your dreams. Everyone should learn how to interpret their dreams to better understand their unconscious feelings. When we know how we feel, we can make better decisions in life that will make us feel happy in the long run.
The more dreams you can recall the more knowledge you will have to work with. The best way to improve your ability to recall dreams is by keeping a dream journal by the side of your bed and record the details of your dream as soon as you wake up. Over time, your dreams will reveal a path that will lead you to happiness and peace with yourself and those around you.
by Bei Linda Tang
Owner/Creative Director of Dream Designs
On November 2, 2019, Tang will host Dream Salon, a symposium to explore dreaming and dreams with world-renowned dream scientists, psychologists, and an Indigenous storyteller.
[i] Hannah Nichols and Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP, Dreams: Why do we dream? Medical News Today, 28 June 2018
[ii] Matthew Walker, Why Your Brain Needs to Dream: Research shows that dreaming is not just a byproduct of sleep, but serves its own important functions in our well-being, Greater Good Magazine, 24 October 2017
[iii] Naiman, R. (2017). Dreamless: the silent epidemic of REM sleep loss. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences