We all know what it’s like to be sleep deprived. We wander around in a fog, we’re not quite as “with it” as we usually are and we find it hard to focus or concentrate on simple tasks. So how can you optimise your sleep and REM sleep periods?
Deprive a human being of sleep and they’ll soon know about it. In fact, many scientific studies have been conducted that reveal just how serious lack of sleep can be.
This is because sleep and rest are vital to all living organisms. We need sleep in order to survive and since we dream every night (even if we don’t always remember them), dreaming represents a vital part of our survival as a species.
“Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” –William Shakespeare.
Why is sleep deprivation so horrible?
Why don’t we function properly when we don’t sleep? Dreaming cleanses and restores the body, mind and soul. As soon as we enter the dream state, our bodies release a special cleansing agent called cerebral spinal fluid that restores the brain by ridding it of the toxins it has accumulated since its last sleep cycle.
Although everyone understands the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, very little is understood about the benefits of dreaming. Since sleeping and dreaming both form part of the same integral experience, it is only logical that both are of utmost importance to our overall health and well-being.
Besides cleansing the brain, dreams also serve to restore our sex hormones, help us solve problems, strengthen our memories and bring equilibrium to our emotions.
Since we spend about a whopping third of our life asleep, it is important to make the most of our time in the land of nod by paying close attention to our dreams.
7 Ways to optimise your REM sleep
It’s been believed since time immemorial that dreams give us access to unconscious and subconscious levels of awareness that can help us solve problems in our waking lives. Besides getting a good night’s sleep, there are many other ways that can help you get the most out of your REM sleep.
1: Eat Clean
As tempting as it may be to eat pizza and fries and other nutritionally void food, fueling the body with nutrient dense nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies will help you have clearer dreams. This is because the brain’s fuel of choice comes in the form of healthy food (think kale and almonds). By eating a healthful vegetarian diet you keep the brain “clean” and burning through quality nutrients.
Eating junk food clogs up the body with toxins, which means that it has to work twice as hard to rid itself of the pollutants that it has accumulated.
In short, eat food that is easily broken down by your body so that it can concentrate on sleeping well and dreaming big. Eating food that is hard to break down means that all your body’s energy reserves are going into flushing the body of toxins, thereby affecting your sleep and dream quality.
2: Take Supplements
Eating a colourful and nutrient-rich diet can be supplemented with specific dream supplements and dream herbs. It is also important to take supplements for any key nutrients that your body might be lacking. Magnesium, manganese, iodine, Niacin, vitamin B12 and omega-3s are some of the most common food deficiencies so if you think your diet could do with a boost, try supplementing with one (or some) of these.
3: Don’t Eat Before Bed
It’s a well-documented fact that eating right before bed can adversely affect our sleep. It is best to eat a light meal at dinner time so try to eat at least three hours before going to bed and make sure that you do most of your carb-loading during the day.
4: Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule
It’s important to try to stick to a regular sleep schedule as this will help you make the most out of any time spent in the land of nod. How this works is that subconscious mind (which is responsible for dreaming) is always seeking to automate our daily activities so that the conscious mind can focus its energy on problem solving.
When we have an erratic schedule we are using up more of our subconscious energy reserves by forcing it to “help out” our conscious mind in its problem-solving duties. By sticking to a schedule, our subconscious mind doesn’t need to try and predict when we are going to sleep because it is already part of an inbuilt, automated system.
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Try and get regular exercise during the day to burn off excess energy so that you are tired enough to go to bed at the same time every night
- Go through the same nighttime routine so that it becomes part of your “going to bed ritual”
5: Keep a Dream Journal
I can’t stress this one enough. Keeping a dream journal is usually the very first step you need to take if you are serious about having lucid dreams.
Keeping a dream journal allows the subconscious mind to “register” your desire to work with the dream state. This means that the longer you keep a dream journal, the more you are programming yourself into remembering your dreams every night.
After you’ve been recording your dreams for a while you’ll start to notice that common themes and dream symbols keep cropping up. This provides you with a second to none look at your unconscious and subconscious tendencies and give you clues on how to change them.
6: Avoid LCD Screens
Countless scientific studies have been done to prove just how detrimental LCD screens are to our sleep cycles. This is because the light emitted from these electronic devices prevents the release of vital sleep hormones from being released into the blood stream.
When it starts to get dark outside we naturally release melatonin to prepare the body for sleep. The presence of LCD screens prevents this from happening and sends signals to the body letting it know that it is not time for sleep yet.
It is important to shut off our phones and laptops at least 30 minutes before bed (although some experts argue that, ideally, they should be shut up at least 2 hours before bed).
People often find this one the hardest to give up since, as a culture, we have developed an excessive dependency on our laptops/tablets/smartphones. Which brings me to my next point…
7: Try Reading Before Bed
If you find it hard to ditch your phone or laptop before going to sleep, try reading instead. We’ve all heard about counting sheep, and reading can have a similar effect, propelling us into the land of nod with greater ease than simply curling up and going to bed.
Not only does reading improve focus, it also allows the brain to disengage from other external stimuli. Contrary to popular belief, it is important to read something meaningful to you to help the mind focus. This optomises your memory and allows you to better recall your dreams upon waking.
Useful tools for improving your sleep
Getting better sleep doesn’t have to be hard. You’re probably wondering when you’ll ever be able to sleep better but don’t panic. Here are some useful things to help you sleep better:
- Read our collection of dreamy books to get inspiration before going to bed!
- Try one of the top rated sleep supplements (these are the natural ones, but we’ve also reviewed the bets unnatural sleeping pills)
- Consider going to a sleep specialist if you can’t sleep well at all for long periods of time
- Try a lucid dreaming pill because many of them contain natural sleep aids and ingredients that will help you get to sleep