Today is the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere. With the longest night of the year behind us, we can look forward to longer and warmer days ahead.
But hold on a minute. Let’s not invite the light back just yet. These dark days have something for us, something that has been forgotten in today’s fast-paced society where, in the words of Strong Bad from Homestar Runner, “I too am so on-the-go that I drink my yogurt from a tube.”
What’s been forgotten? The gift of rest. Winter is a time to withdrawal, to move inward, to ruminate and imagine. These dark days are for sleeping, dreaming and tending the hearth, as our ancestors did.
So, to battle the social intensity of our consumerist winter holidays, as well as the global trend of weisure that threatens to destroy this traditional time of sanctity, here are some tips for getting the most out of your dream life during the frenetic holiday season.
1. Take Naps. Chances are you will miss out on some REM (dreaming) sleep this week, especially if you go to bed late and get up early the next morning. So take a nap in the afternoon and keep your dream journal close at hand…. you will most likely jump straight to dreaming sleep that will be especially intense and vivid.
2. Drink and Dream. Did you know that alcohol can dampen dreaming sleep? However, it also causes a REM rebound towards the end of the night to make up for it. So if you do a lot of holiday embibing, keep your morning schedules free so you can at least sleep in. These morning sleep cycles will have more REM than normal, and also more vivid dreams with bizarre elements too.
3. Share your crazy family dreams. If you’re visiting family, you may spend half of your time avoiding the old landmines and pitfalls that can cause a dinner conversation to go south. Be on a look out for this material to crop up intensely in your dreams as the mind compensates for your good manners. The dream may have some creative solutions, or maybe just an image that everyone will appreciate in good humor. Share your dream the next night, preferably after the wine has been poured. This can spark a fun conversation, and will encourage dream recall for everyone involved.
4. Play videogames. No secret that playing video games is a great way to pass the time at gatherings that never end. But did you know that there’s a correlation between playing video games and having more lucid dreams? This seems to be due to factors such as day residue as well as the ability for gamers to become absorbed and stay self-aware in a “virtual reality.” If you play more than normal this week, set an intention as you settle into sleep to become self-aware the next time you are playing the game. Soon you’ll be farming some gold or wielding the Ocarina of Time, and then you’ll realize “Hey – I’m dreaming!”
5. Load up on holiday pot roast. In Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Scrooge doubts Marley’s ghostly existence by claiming the vision may be caused by “a bit of undigested beef.” Turns out, there’s some truth to this: beef, chicken, turkey and veal is chock full of amino acids like choline that are known to increase dream vividness and bizarreness. Choline increases the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which can also lead to more lucid dreams. Liver is especially rich in choline, in case you want to try this traditional European holiday dish that you have succeeded in avoiding until now. This is a potent combo with all the tryptophan in the meat too… guaranteeing you’ll go down easy.
May you sleep well, dream ferverishly, and remember everything!