Halflight…

Six a.m. on a Sunday… I groaned and turned off the alarm clock. I hadn’t been sleeping well, or enough, and did not want to obey the imperative summons… especially not on a day when, historically, most folks get to sleep later. As I clawed my way through the fleeing remnants of a dream in which I had been dreaming about dreaming, I wondered about the whole sleep thing. We are supposed to spend about a third of our lives in slumber. Is that a design flaw, a superb bit of physical engineering or a gift? Maybe it is all three, or perhaps that depends on where you are standing.

There has been a huge amount of research done on the need for and benefits of sleep, from both the physical and psychological perspectives. We have identified the stages of sleep, the way the mind solves problems and the body heals and recharges. But that side of things wasn’t what was bugging me.

Other than the ‘low-battery’ warning that tells us our bodies need sleep, what is it about the process that makes us crave it? We look forward to sleep and yet, during the night hours, normal consciousness takes a hike; we have no control over our bodies or, apparently, our minds. We are defenceless… and we surrender ourselves to sleep willingly? You have to admit, that seems an odd state of affairs.

And we are not on our own. We don’t understand sleep in all other creatures, can’t even fully define it,  but it seems that all of them sleep in one way or another. Fish sleep with their eyes open, as most of them don’t have eyelids to close. Dolphins only let one hemisphere of the brain sleep at any time, so they can keep moving. Others only cat-nap for minutes… though cats sleep around sixteen hours a day.

There was a sci-fi programme on the TV at my son’s home the other day, in which a machine had been invented to condense the required hours of sleep into minutes, so that we need not waste our time unconscious. In real world terms, I could see where that would be a money-spinner for its inventor… there is never enough time to do everything we need, want and would like to do. The first part of our lives we are pretty much helpless and do as we are told. The latter years of life are often limited by failing health, depleted finances and energy. The middle years are generally pretty full between work, relationships and families. Time to follow our dreams is at a premium… and perhaps that is the beauty and attraction of sleep.

Dreams are weird things. Some people remember them in detail, others not at all. Some dream in black and white, others in colour. Dreams can seem totally random or make perfect sense…and sometimes both at once.

You can experience a whole lifetime in a night, ride dragons, explore outer space, change careers, do and be anything your waking mind can imagine… and then break all the barriers of possibility and do the impossible too. We are superlative storytellers in our dreams, creating whole and believable worlds, down to the last small detail, peopled with  perfectly ‘real’ characters. For a moment, I had an odd thought. What if dreaming were the real purpose of living? Rather like a reversal of that sci-fi machine, where our bodies themselves are just the machines that allow us to sleep, and where our waking life just gathered impressions to fuel imagination so that we could cram all the experience of multiple lifetimes into a short few years… It would make sense of why we tend to remember our dreams so imperfectly; why would we want to live ‘ordinary’ lives awake after the adventures of the dream word?

I know science and the conscious mind have explanations for dreams, as well as the stages and uses of sleep, but I have a feeling there is more to the dream state than we yet know.  And yet, we speak of people being asleep who walk like automata through the world, unaware of its magic and beauty.. We use the term ‘dreamer’ as a disparagement, when everything useful that has every been invented was first dreamed up in someone’s imagination.

Maybe we should be paying more attention to our dreams and what they might be capable of showing us? I know that one of the pivotal moments of my own life to date was experienced in dream… an experience so profound that, forty years later, it is as fresh as ever in memory and as relevant to the way I live my life.

Science would probably say that the dream was just my subconscious mind collating and presenting what I already knew deep down… or seeking justification for my choices… or something equally sensible. I honestly don’t care where things come from if they can change my life for the better. And if dreams give me access to a level of mind that knows better than the surface ‘I’, I’m quite happy to dream.

All I need now is a boss who will let me…

 

43 thoughts on “Halflight…

  1. …And what about folk who are either ‘owls’ or ‘larks’? I’m certainly the former (well, just look at the time of this post!) I’m bright as the proverbial button at the moment – but will be on ‘automatic pilot’ until about Noon!
    As for dreams…I’m fascinated by the concept of the unconscious mind, and the various stages of consciousness and unconsciousness; particularly how this can be ‘altered’ by various techniques (i.e. as in the so-called ‘Christos’ experiments of Glaskin et al) and am presently writing a novel based on this and other aspects of ASC.- particularly with reference to past life experience(s) and/or predictability of future events.Is our mind a more sophisticated version of the Doctor’s Police Phone Box?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m both night owl and lark… which is probably not great 😉
      I came across Glaskin’s work back in the 80s. I’ve often wondered why/how the technique worked and what exactly was the state induced. I found it fascinating. I would have liked to experiment, but, like many people back then, found myself without friends with a similar interest.
      The magical techniques in which I trained lead to shifts in consciousness and yes, I am convinced that our minds are capable of much of what the Tardis is written as doing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have always put off sleep until later. I’d rather read or listen to a book or write something or even watch a movie. I have never liked sleep and maybe that’s why I don’t get enough of it. Or maybe I don’t like sleep because I walk in my sleep and sometimes, hide things in my sleep. When I accuse the pixies of stealing my stuff, inevitably I have the sneaking suspicion that I “hid it” in my sleep.

    My granddaughter was also a sleepwalker and one night we caught her trying to climb out a window with a dozen eggs under her arm. I also did the laundry one night — while asleep — and woke up in the living room, wondering why half the laundry was on the bathroom floor. We had to put bars on the windows to keep Kaitie IN the house, especially when the weather was bad.

    But Garry — he can sleep his life away. He loves sleeping. He loves his dreams and remembers many of them.

    There are people who really don’t sleep virtually at all and they seem to manage pretty well. I do know that I need a lot more sleep now than I did when I was younger when 4 or 5 hours seemed to be enough. Now, I need at least 7 or 8. If my back would let me stay in bed longer, I’d be good for an extra hour or two.

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    1. I tend to work or read late too…then get up early. I still manage on much less than eight hours, but know my body would prefer more sleep.
      I’ve never sleepwalked, thank goodness, though one of my sons did sometimes and we had to put an alaram outside his door that chimed to wake us if he did.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely article, Sue. It really does put things into perspective. There are lots of people out there who do not have dreams and aspirations. They are happy to live their ordinary lives and do their jobs, watch TV in the evening and do very little on weekends. I can’t understand it myself but it is true.

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  4. The dream world is definitely more than just our subconscious, I agree. My dreams are in colour, glorious nightmarish colour, esp when dreaming of the zombie apocalypse. I have nightmares which wake Dante and he comes and licks my face until I wake up. He has dreams in which he whines and yips, until we wake him up. So dreaming is something I don’t think I’ll ever understand but I do pay attention to them, I was always told to. xxx

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  5. Another stunning photo Sue, and as always a post to make you think.
    Sleep has been evading me, and pain has been keeping Hubby awake.
    Dreams are indeed weird. We bring back those we love and miss, we face dangers which we thought were irrelevant, and last night I dreamt about three couples, each promising to look after each other. The first prepared a meal for the two of them and didn’t clear up, the second prepared a meal using what was left of the clean pots and crockery and didn’t clear up, so that when it was our turn, there was no food, nothing to cook in and nothing to eat from. I read it as a re-evaluation of ‘friends’………… take all and give nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m annoyed I’ve forgotten my dream this morning. I was awakened out of it by the phone ringing and even as I answered it I was wondering, ‘Who are these people?’ because whatever the dream was it was peopled by total strangers having a really interesting conversation. I’ve never sleepwalked but a friend did, especially at stressful times. When she had her first baby her husband woke to find her frantically emptying all the drawers in bedroom because she’d lost the baby. When he guided her to the cot – still asleep – to show her the baby safely asleep, she went back to bed. She had no memory of it and wondered why the bedroom floor was strewn with clothes in the morning. We have so much to learn about the workings of the brain when we are asleep (and, often, when we are awake!).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating post about sleep and the brain and a photo that makes me want to dream… I’m one of those humans who enjoys a good night’s rest (8-10 hours generally) and often remember my dreams (some of which are repeated). May your sleep be restful and your dreams sweet as honey… ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. What a fascinating range of comments,observations and personal experiences! I’m intrigued that to date nobody has mentioned any pre-sleep experiences. I often find a hazy group of people peering over me as I’m about to ‘drop off’. I know I’m awake as I can look around them at will (either rolling my eyes or/and moving my head) – but they ‘vanish’ when i sit up or turn on the bedside light! It was a bit scary at first but they don’t seem to be malign. I’ve tried speaking to them, but they don’t respond so I just ignore them and they eventually just seem to ‘fade away’ (unless of course I’ve gone to sleep!) I’ve never seen their bodies – only their faces (ie as a baby might see their parents from their cot/pram etc. Weird isn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I dream every night and I dream in color. At times, I KNOW beyond a doubt a dream carries a message for me because it will linger and nag at me through the day. Then, I’ve had “visits” in dreams with loved ones beyond the veil. There is a distinct different in these dreams. It’s as real as the waking world. I once dreamed that I laid down and went to sleep. When I awoke, I was totally confused as to whether I was asleep or awake in our physical world. I’ll never forget that feeling. And, is dying like going into a dream that you never come out of? Fascinating part of our lives!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, jan. Most of our dreaming is probably just ‘clearing the cache’ of the day’s experiences, but there are others…and wherever they originate, they teach us valuable lessons.

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