To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Sleep, Dreams, and Safety
Nobody knows for sure whether or not William Shakespeare had insomnia, but the evidence is nothing if not compelling. For one thing, it's hard to imagine that he could write all those plays, poems, and songs in such a short time while still getting a solid eight hours a night. For another, it's a well-known fact that good writers generally write what they know best, and Shakespeare's characters certainly don't seem to sleep much; so it's likely he had first-hand experience with sleeplessness.
The evidence is so profound that one writer even wrote an entire book about Shakespeare's take on insomnia. In Shakespeare's Insomnia and the Causes Thereof, nineteenth-century author Franklin H. Head claims to have gotten to the root of the connection, arguing that "Quotations from Shakespeare's plays about sleeplessness reveal his hours of pathetic misery, his nights of desolation."
We're not sure about that; but we do know that one of Shakespeare's best-known characters, the "melancholy Dane," Prince Hamlet, has something to say on the subject. In contemplating his mortality, Hamlet considers the connection between sleep, dreams, and the impossibility of waking from them.
You'll no doubt recognize these lines from his famous soliloquy.
To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
Hamlet may have been considering what dreams may come in the long sleep of death, but his words ring true in the here and now.
For most of us, it isn't the inability to wake from dreams: it's the dreams themselves.
Dreams and Wakefulness
First of all, rest assured that it's perfectly normal to dream, and it is also perfectly reasonable to dream a lot.
Most of us spend quite a bit of our sleep time dreaming. We don't remember the majority of what happens in our dreams.
Adults and babies alike dream for around two hours per night—even those of us who claim not to. In fact, researchers have found that people usually have several dreams each night, each one typically lasting for between five to 20 minutes. During a typical lifetime, people spend an average of six years dreaming. (Very Well Mind)
Second, many people have come to see dreams as products of the unconscious mind. Though opinions have shifted over time regarding what dreams mean (or don't mean), everyone does generally agree that dreams prove problematic for those with sleep disorders. In such cases, dreams can turn into waking hallucinations, causing the person with the sleep disorder to act out, become violent, or prove a danger to themselves or others.
It is a severe scenario and deserves considerable care concerning sleep, dreams, and safety.
Because hallucinatory episodes tend to strike during the levels of sleep associated with falling asleep and waking up, it's often thought that the dream is what disrupts sleep, when in fact, it's nearly the other way around. Because the person has entered the REM cycle, they're more prone to suffer sleep hallucinations.
If you are prone to waking dreams, sleepwalking, hallucinations, or anything else that endangers you or those around you, consult with a sleep specialist right away.
If your problems are less severe, and you find yourself waking from vivid and stressful dreams more often than not, take heart. There's likely nothing wrong with you physically or psychologically, and there are probably some small steps you can take to alleviating your problem.
In such cases, the following tips and tricks will likely prove helpful.
Tips and Tricks
Barring sleep disorders, it's natural to experience regular, vivid dreams. Though frequency, intensity, and subject matter will vary from person to person, vivid dreams just before waking are a perfectly natural part of the sleep cycle.
According to Dr. Ziad Shaman, both environmental and psychological factors can disrupt sleep. Sleeping positions, discomfort, ambient noise, and medications can all affect the frequency and vividness of one's dreams.
In addition to suggesting that people consult sleep specialists in cases of particular concern, he recommends the following practical steps for dealing with frequent and disruptive dreaming:
- Assure a comfortable, quiet, cold, and dark sleep environment
- Minimize volitional sleep deprivation, and keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
- Minimize alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco use close to sleep time
- Avoid using sleep aids, even those available over the counter
To that list, we would recommend considering some of the following to improve sleep, dreams, and safety:
- Adjust your diet
- Consult an allergist
- Decrease daily stress factors
- Pray or meditate before bed
- Invest in a "white noise" machine
- Read an inspirational book at night
- Ensure proper hydration throughout the day
Though we cannot promise that all of these suggestions will work for everybody, we can offer hope that implementing one or more of them might prove useful in leading to fewer vivid, stressful, or disruptive dreams.
We hope that in doing so, you can soon join Prospero in The Tempest as, through him, Shakespeare speaks for all of us:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
A little life, rounded in sleep. That sounds pretty good to us!
We Can Help
Here at Nest Bedding, we are proud to supply quality mattresses at affordable prices. Our prices are so good you'll think you're dreaming!
All jokes aside, though we can't solve all your sleep issues, we can help mitigate the symptoms. No matter your problems, with a new mattress, you're likely to sleep much better. In fact, according to a 2011 poll, 92% of people say a good mattress is essential to a good night's sleep.
While we can't promise that our mattresses will eliminate the sorts of dreams that can cause wakefulness, we can guarantee that with a comfortable mattress, the sleep you do get will be of higher quality and more restful.
If you have questions about our product lines, or if you would like to chat about anything else, feel free to contact us or stop by one of our showrooms. Our staff is friendly, helpful, and non-confrontational.
We look forward to serving you!