‘Just sleep on it’.
Ever find yourself so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted that you just had to lay down and collapse into a deep sleep? Many times, on awakening, your problems seemed less insurmountable. Not gone, of course, but somehow less overwhelming. Yet despite these occasional glimpses into the deeper function of sleep, scientists and philosophers still debate its true function and significance.
Certainly, we have inherited this necessity from our fellow living beings. All living creatures follow some sort of circadian rhythms and so we must as well. Whatever its ultimate meaning, science has demonstrated that insuffienct sleep results in poor cognitive function, altered immune responses, anxiety and depression, diminished carbohydrate metabolism suggestive of diabetes and, in severe cases, hallucinations. Diminished life expectancy correlates with poor sleeping habits.
I am one of those individuals who are fortunate to be able to take ‘power naps’. Lasting from 10 to 20 minutes, I find that when I am physically and emotionally fatigued, I am able to slip into a deep but short-lived state of sleep. I awake spontaneously, refreshed mentally and spiritually.
Sleep and its resultant dream states which occur during REM sleep are also hotly debated topics. Dreams may reflect nonsensical images, cognitive problem solving which did not occur during wakefulness and perhaps even spiritual encounters.
Several of the most powerful experiences which I have heard are dream images. I have made note of them in my upcoming book Meta-Physician On Call for Better Health [available through Amazon.com]. These are tremendously compelling bits of personal encounters with another level of existence. Some include death announcements and information from deceased relatives, premonitions of disasters, even contact with the soul of an unborn child.
That aside, I choose to regard sleep as a time of ‘escape’ and reflection, even on a subconscious level. It is a ‘time out’ from the chaos of daily existence which often tends to accelerate our anxieties and sense of unhappiness. It tells us that the universe is not a continuous process, but occurs in quantum segments.
This correlates with quantum theories notion of Planck time, infinitesimal blocks of time measurement. It tells us metaphorically that what we perceive as continuous flow is more like the illusion that we get when we watch a film. It, too, is composed of individual, discrete frames.
By separating light from dark, day from night, sleep forces us to step outside of time, to awaken to a new day and a new perspective on reality. It puts our difficulties in a greater context. The tasks we have allowed to burden us fall into a different perspective, a different hierarchy of necessity. They become less important that we previously believed. We awaken to an understanding that our being is more important than our doing.
It is an opportunity to be grateful for being alive. It is a tremendous gift of renewal, an opportunity to change our lives, or at least our attitudes about our lives. It is truly a powerful tool for healing. So look forward to sleep and the awakening to a new day that will follow it.