Sleeping & Dreaming

I know that I’m not the only one who is having trouble sleeping during this time because I’ve been hearing about tossing and turning all night from so many people.  I have a friend who gave up on sleeping entirely one night and just got a really early start on her workday.  Another friend decided in the middle of the night that she might as well watch a movie that she knew no one else wanted to watch and my daughter suggested that I should spend my middle-of-the-night awake time catching up on some books I’ve wanted to read (I probably should have instead of wrestling with my pillow).  I have listened to her, in a way, because I turned to the resources that we have available through the DownloadLibrary about good “sleep hygiene” and for some suggestions on fixing this common problem.  So, I am reading.

Actually, I’ve always known that we had terrific books on this topic in the collection at WPL because sleep, or the lack of it, is an evergreen question from customers visiting our Information Desk.  It doesn’t matter what is keeping you awake, there is no doubt that it can take a toll on how you face the challenges the following day.  Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep is an in-depth book, easy to read and interesting, but still almost too meaty for me right now.  He is trying to convince the world that sleep is important, talking about the impact on schools and businesses, and I feel like I’m already convinced.  I will come back to this book another time and would suggest it to someone who wants to read a solidly researched piece of non-fiction but I was looking for something with more practical tips.

I moved on to Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution and she also spent a few chapters trying to convince me that sleep was important but hers had a slightly more upbeat tone (she isn’t a neuroscience professor so that might have something to do with it) and the chapters that gave suggestions about what to do and what to avoid were very appealing.  Also, since these are trying times, I skipped ahead to the chapter called “From Hollywood and Washington to Hospitals and Hotels: Discovering the Power of Sleep” because I was hoping for a little bit of gossip.  Yes!  There was a sufficient amount of name dropping.  I was entertained and I learned something at the same time.  The final chapter has specific information about effectively using technology when you are concerned about good sleep habits, and her wish list in the final chapter was quite charming. Huffington had won me over by the end of her book.

So, has reading two books about improving sleep helped me? Sort of. I have adjusted some of my problematic habits and stubbornly hung onto others with a result of longer periods of sleep.  Hooray!  I’m sure that I could do better though, if I tried harder to implement all of the suggestions from the books.  We are all searching for balance right now and some of that involves the comfort of habits that make you feel good, even if these might be sabotaging good sleep.  I’m still experimenting with it all and am using the tidbits of information that I learned from both of these books in conversation.

It’s a hot topic.  Sleep conversations are everywhere.  Quirks and Quarks reported recently about the vivid dreams that people are having and how this compounds our lack of sleep.  Dreams where you are being chased around or are trying to find something you have lost are not helping us to feel more well-rested in the morning (I can relate).  This report included mention of a group of London-based graduate students who are surveying people about their amazing dreams – some people online are calling them #quarandreams – and I’ve been encouraged by checking out their social media feeds.

Their theory that our dreams are more intense because we are experiencing less social interaction makes a lot of sense to me.  So does the idea that because we are spending so much time close to home and challenging our brains less that we have no option other than to review old experiences when we are asleep (maybe that’s why so many dreams are relating to childhood?) causing us to wake up and think about those dreams much longer than we normally would.  I liked this idea so much that I’m shaking up the route that I walk, listening to a terrific BBC podcast about the Apollo missions and actually sitting down and watching “The Last Dance” when I’m in the family room instead of picking up a novel.

DownloadLibrary has several other books on the topic of sleep – many for adults but some specific to families and children as well.  If you are looking for something new to shake up your routine and get your brain out of a rut, hopefully shaking loose some of those ‘quarandreams’, you can find great content on Kanopy (I really liked the 2016 documentary about street cats in Istanbul – ‘Kedi’). If you find watching movies doesn’t help to chase away bad dreams, it will definitely keep you company in the middle of the night.

— Penny M.