Nov 272019

Why We Sleep

I just finished reading the book“Why We Sleep”- unlocking the power of sleep and dreams- by Matthew Walker, PhD of neuroscience and psychology. There have been many scientific studies to determine the benefits of sleep and dreaming. What I learned was very interesting. Many of the benefits are very similar to the benefits of meditation.

Why We Sleep Book


Health Benefits 

Sleep and dreaming provide similar benefits to meditation. They also help you live longer, give you less chance of dementia, cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart attacks or strokes.  In many societies including our own, people think of sleep as a luxury. We think it is ok to shortchange ourselves in this department. Many correlations have been shown between sleeping less than 6 hours a night and increased health risks. The optimal number of hours to sleep is 7 or 8 for everyone.  In the United States, more auto accidents are due to drowsy driving than alcohol and drugs combined.  Read Amanda McKay’s blog for tips on sleeping: Healthy Habits to Improve Your Sleep


Dreaming is of particular interest to me since it provides a mechanism to soothe your emotions and to increase your creativity. During dreamless, NREM ( non -REM sleep) the overall metabolic activity is decreased in the brain. The opposite is true during REM ( rapid eve movement) sleep. During  REM  sleep where dreaming occurs, scientists have found activation of the visual, motor, emotional and autobiographical memory regions in the brain. It reduces activation in the region that controls rational thoughts. 
REM sleep helps us remember details of valuable experiences.  It helps us forget the painful emotions from traumatic experiences. This aids in removing the emotional charge from our experiences when we think about them.   While treating some veterans with a drug for high blood pressure, doctors found the medication reduced the level of stress-related noradrenaline in PTSD patients allowing better REM sleep. They reported being able to sleep better at night and a decrease in their nightmares.  
Dreaming allows us to make connections that would not be possible in our conscious mind. The center for emotions is enhanced and the rational thought center is decreased. Mendeleev, a Russian Chemist was able to organize the Periodic Table containing all the elements during his sleep. He had been trying for years. After not sleeping for three days or nights, he fell asleep and dreamed of the table where all the elements fell into place. Paul McCartney dreamed of the melodies of “Yesterday” and Let It Be” while he was sleeping.   


I have listed some of the benefits of Meditation: reduce stress, boost immunity, enhance creativity, increase productivity and improve attention & memory on the Events page here  You can see the similarities to the power of sleep and dreams.  Meditation is also a way to interpret your dreams. I keep a journal near my bed to record any dreams that I can remember. During meditation, I quiet my mind and ask what the dream meant. Then I listen for an answer. The trick is to wait for an answer – it might come that day or in the next few days.  You may have to ask again. In the same journal, I record any impressions that come to me in my meditations whether they are related to my dreams or not. Your mind opens up to new possibilities by stilling the constant stream of thoughts and connecting to your inner self. These impressions may not mean anything when you have them but frequently become apparent in the future. I also record any coincidences such a seeing the same numbers, the same letters, or the same animals frequently.  If you are thinking of someone and they call at that instant, record that in your journal. The more you practice noticing these occurrences the more in tune you become with the spiritual side of yourself. This can enhance your encounters with loved ones that have passed to the spiritual realm also.  You can listen to free guided meditations here:

Ann McKenzie- Meditation-Nature

I will be offering a Guided Meditation to the Community on 12-9-19. You can find the details on :

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