I left the elevator and walked into the lobby of the hotel. Yet another hotel, in yet another town. The generic decoration made it impossible to even work out which town I was in.
I glanced out of the glass windows that ran all the way across the front of the hotel. The glass revolving doors spun with people rushing in and out. Cars pulled onto the drop off area out front. A sedan pulled out and an old, beat up, dented, grey truck pulled in. Just a small truck – one of those ones with a small cab at the front and a flatbed at the back. Dented, dinged, rusty and looking like it had seen much better days decades ago.
My eyes were drawn to the sky. As I watched, the clouds darkened. Swirling, billowing, into a molten mass. Spinning. Getting darker and darker. I heard a gasp behind me. ‘Twister…’ whispered someone.
My stomach contracted in fear. My eyes were now glued to the clouds and that threatening mass as the funnel cloud spiraled rapidly towards the ground just in front of the hotel. I started to scream …
I’ve always had intense dreams. I can count on one hand the number of ‘fluffy kitten’ type dreams I can remember. I’ve always been much better at dark, threatening, supernatural-inspired dreams that have me running for my life. It’s not so unusual for me to wake myself up with a muffled scream as I fight to escape and to break the usual paralysis we’d all associate with dreaming.
From years of experience I know I need 7 and a half to 8 hours sleep each night. I’ll take 9 if I can get it. I’ll gladly admit that my favorite place in the world is my bed and I love to sleep. I’ve never felt any affiliation with people who try to make out that sleep is a waste of time – the ‘I can sleep when I’m dead’ brigade – or those that wear their 4 hours a night like some sort of medal of honour.
And most of the time (dreams and the odd bit of jet lag allowing) I sleep really well. But I count myself as lucky as many people are not sleeping so well. In 2010 British doctors wrote a staggering 15 million prescriptions for sleeping pills!
We all think of sleep deprivation meaning many hours of lost sleep and results in catastrophic events such as road accidents. Which it does.
But do you realize that chronically missing relatively small amounts of sleep each night, such as 30 mins, has potentially massive effects on both you brain power and your health. This chronic deprivation has insidious, negative effects on your thought processes, your productivity, whether you achieve your goals, how creative you are, your relationships and your ability to learn new skills and new information. Research has linked the lack of sleep to depression, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and even early death.
Many of us work so hard and put so much effort into developing ourselves – trying to grow, to learn, to achieve our dreams. Yet many people are unknowingly sabotaging all those waking efforts by simply not getting enough sleep each night.
So what can you do about it?
I recently read a fantastic book that could help us all. Night School: The Life-Changing Science of Sleep – Richard Wiseman, Professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire. It’s packed full of fascinating sleep research and lots of good ideas to help you be a ‘super-sleeper’.
Below you’ll find his manifesto with ten top tips to help you get a great nights sleep.
If you want to feel sleepy when you head to bed – avoid blue light (from phones and the like) for 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed. It stimulates your brain. Banish that phone from beside your bed too.
If you want to feel especially refreshed in the morning – we all sleep in 90 minute cycles. So work out what time you want to get up and then count back in 90 minute chunks from there to know what time to go to bed. If you want to get up at 6am then you need to be in bed, ready for sleep, at 10.30pm.
If you want to fall asleep quickly – ‘try’ to stay awake! Yep the opposite actually works. Alternatively build yourself a pleasant place in your mind, perhaps a beach, a meadow, a mountain or whatever will help you feel calm and relaxed. Add lots of detail in your minds eye. Nothing too stimulating.
If you lie in bed feeling worried – keep a pen and paper by the bed so you can make a list of whatever is on your mind that you need to do. Once it’s on the paper hopefully you can put it out of your head. Try to watch your thoughts drift across your mind, like clouds in the sky, and not engage with them.
If you wake up in the middle of the night – now that you know we all sleep in 90 minute cycles it’s nothing to worry about – right? If it lasts more than 20 minutes get up and read a book or do some other quiet activity. DON’T pick up your phone …
If you want to learn in your sleep – it’s not about learning in your sleep, but rather about getting good quality sleep to cement memories in your mind. If you want to remember what you’ve learned then make sure you get a good nights sleep after a day of learning.
If you want to boost your brainpower during the day – take a nap! They do it at Google so why shouldn’t you?!
If you are experiencing a recurring nightmare or bad dream – replay it in your mind during the day describing your dream in plenty of detail and then create a new ending. Something positive. Replay it. Research shows this will knock your dream on the head 9 times out of 10.
If you want to gain insight into your concerns and worries – then muse on the dreams that stand out. Think of the details. Look for how they might apply to your life. Is there something you need to change?
If you want to achieve a goal – just before you fall asleep imagine doing whatever you need to achieve your goal. Maybe you see yourself close the fridge without taking anything out if you want to lose weight. Tell yourself you want these images to appear in your dreams.
And now I think it’s time for bed. Sleep tight.