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Sleep Challenge 2010: Perchance to Dream

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We're two weeks in to the sleep challenge, with two more weeks to go, and I really feel like I've hit my snoozing stride. I've met my sleep goal of 8 hours a night for five of the last seven nights.

One result of my getting more -- and better -- sleep has been an increase in the intensity of my dreams. I'm not sure if my dreams are actually more intense, vivid, and interesting, or if they only seem that way because I'm not waking up longing to sleep more.

Whatever the reason, I suddenly find myself in possession of a rich and compelling dream life. But here's the catch: for the last week or so, I've woken up with my mind buzzing, excited by the dream I'd just had. But I haven't had the time to write my dreams down. Getting a full 8 hours has pushed my schedule to the limit, so when I get up I need to move pretty quickly to the first thing on my schedule.

At the moment, I just don't have the extra 15 minutes I need to write my dreams down, let alone reflect on them. Does this mean I need to sleep 20 minutes less -- or go to sleep 20 minutes earlier? (At this rate, I'll be going to bed right after the sun goes down!)

This reconnecting with my dreams has been like reuniting with an old flame.

I've always been fascinated by dreams. My recent run of intense dreaming brought to mind a trip I took in the mid 80s to Luxor in Egypt and a tour of the Luxor Temple with its "sleep chambers." These chambers are where the high priests and priestesses would retire after they had prepared, through prayer and meditation, to receive in their sleep divine guidance and inspiration. In stark contrast to our modern habit of drugging ourselves senseless, hoping to "crash" for a few hours before having to face another frantic day, the ancient Egyptians went to sleep expectantly. This spiritual preparation for sleep allowed them to bring back remnants of their dreams and notes from their night's travels.
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Even before my trip to Egypt, I had long been fascinated by the work of Carl Jung, with its emphasis on dreams and archetypes. His autobiographical Memories, Dreams, Reflections was one of my all-time favorite books. It helped me explore the possibility that the world of dreams, far from shutting us off from what we consider "the real world," actually opens us up to another reality -- a timeless place that allows us to listen to our soul.

Following that trip to Egypt, and for many years after, I used to write down my dreams in a journal. I filled notebook after notebook after notebook. But then life -- especially motherhood -- intervened. And between nursing a newborn, comforting a crying baby or holding a feverish toddler -- to say nothing of trying to continue to write -- time evaporated into the night, and sleep became more of a survival tactic, and less of a way to connect to the sacred and the divine.

Night and sleep soon became all about the transitions. Head hitting the pillow only when the schedule allowed. Waking up already late, already on the run. Life became a cycle of crash and rush, crash and rush. It was a cycle I eventually became used to. It seemed normal.

Then came my re-awakening. Or should I say my re-asleepening -- I'm once more making sleep a priority, and giving myself permission to remember my dreams. As I say, I still need to make time to write them down - because that's something you must do right away. As Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee put it on HuffPost: "How many dreams are lost between the bedroom and the bathroom?"

And a funny thing happened on the way to remembering my dreams: I've found another way of connecting with my younger daughter. Yesterday, while I was telling her about my newly vivid dreams and renewed interest in writing them down, she began telling me about her dreams as well.

I won't, of course, go into the details of her dreams (I wouldn't want her censoring what her dreams are telling her), but I don't think she'd mind if I say that in one of her recurring dreams, she imagines herself as a living "Stop" sign, forcing people to come to a complete stop before moving on with their lives.

Which, now that I think of it, is a pretty good metaphor for what a good night's sleep allows us to do. Sweet dreams, everyone.