Sleep, Dreams & Nightmares
If you’re struggling to get your little human to commit to some serious pillow time, you’re not alone. Few families get through childhood without some sort of disruption at bedtime. The good news is that as the parent or grown up who loves them, there are simple, powerful things you can do to help your little dreamers (and you!) find a more peaceful sleep.
For something that’s meant to be instinctive and so-easy-that-babies-can-do-it, sleep certainly doesn’t mind playing hard to get at times. It can be a bit of a punk like that. Here’s how sleep is meant to happen – your body temp starts to drop and melatonin – the sleep hormone that tells your body that it’s bedtime – starts to rise. Your blood pressure drops, your heart rate eases back and your breathing finds a steady beat. Then … sleep. Restful, restorative, glorious sleep. Easy right? Yeah no. Not at all.
Sleep is one of those things that has an absence as powerful as its presence. A lack of sleep comes with its own face – eyelids that hang, eyes that are redder and more swollen, darker circles, paler skin, wrinkles or fine lines, and a wilting mouth. It is a face that is often identified by others as being sad, communicating, perhaps, that they should go gently. There are also major changes that we can’t see. The brain is shaped by every experience, and a scarcity of pillow time is a heavyweight when it comes to having an influence.
Quality pillow time – blissful, uninterrupted and long enough – is vital for all of us. For teens and tweens, their brains are growing like never before and sleep is critical to power this process along. They all have it in them to set the world on fire, and they’ll find their own way to do that, but for that to happen, they need sleep. And plenty of it. So what are most of them doing before they fall asleep that’s getting in the way?
Pillows and people are always a lovely match, but there are plenty of other reasons why sleep is so important. Sleep restores, recharges, solves problems, processes emotions and memories leftover from the day, and quite literally, cleanses the brain. Bodies tend to unfold as they want to during sleep, but new research has found that it’s not just sleep that influences brain health, but also sleep position.
Sleep deprivation is a root cause of many problems that shows up almost every day: fatigue, learning and concentration difficulties, and accidents. Everyone can be affected by sleep deprivation, especially children. Why? Because there are a lot of things that capture their attention nowadays. They get caught up with most of these and forget to log a full length of sleep.
You have to love anything that cleans up while you’re sleeping. That’s exactly what the brain does and dreams are the way they do it.
Like any big clean-up things can get messier before they get better – that’s where nightmares come in. Now, researchers at Harvard have demonstrated that we (as in all of us) can manipulate the content of our dreams and nightmares.
During sleep, the brain has a ‘to do’ list that makes the average fairy godmother look like a lightweight.
As well as keeping us alive, it finds creative solutions to problems, consolidates memories, works through painful ones, stimulates new insight, processes emotion and works on important unfinished issues. Dreams are a critical part of the process. Here’s how to make them work for you …
Dreams are a natural, normal part of the human sleep cycle. They aren’t prophecy, nor are they an unknowable phenomenon of a mystical world.
What they are, are rich, dynamic sources of information and creativity because unlike the daytime mind, the sleeping mind is wildly free from the limits of what is imaginable, plausible and – here’s the big one – acceptable. Paying attention to your dreams can provide rich insights into the issues that are playing on your mind.