How To Get A Heavenly Night’s Sleep
How To Get A Heavenly Night’s Sleep
Here's some sound advice and sleep secrets for you.
If you've been waking full of anxiety in the middle of the night these past few weeks than you're in good company. A recent survey’s found that due to the dark and dreary days of winter many find their body clock slightly askew. Leaving them prone to waking up fitfully not sure whether it's time to face another day or to stop fretting and try to get back off to sleep.
With other research finding that 36% of adults experience at least one troubled night a week and 18 per cent regularly sleeping poorly, a lack of sleep is a real problem. In fact a staggering 400,000 people in a recent British Sleep Society study claim that sleep problems are ruining their relationships and careers.
It's not simply your sleep problem at issue. If you’ve a partner that tosses and turns, or has a disorder like sleep apnoea (and snores) your sleep is likely to be disturbed. Interesting, though, women have more tenacity when sharing beds. Research at the University of Vienna found that men showed more disturbed sleep when sharing a bed then women. Despite the fact more men snore!
Is a sleep deficit a real worry?
Some experts reckon we've become overly neurotic about getting the perfect night's sleep arguing that overall the majority does. Others claim the so-called "sleep debt" facing the country is very real and engendered by modern, 24-hour society. With researchers at the University of Surrey citing laptops in the bedroom, mobile phones at the bedside and other light and noise pollution as major culprits.
When devising a sleep programme for a coaching-client I always take these and many other considerations into account, as I'll outline. Worrying about sleep is logical in my book – but it doesn’t solve the issue. We spend a full third of life in bed and so we should expect a good quality of rest. Market analysts Mintel estimate the sleep industry’s worth over £4 billion annually confirming the fact we're terrified of being tired and spend a lot of money in pursuit of sleep.
Just what constitutes a good night’s sleep?
There are many questions around getting a good night's sleep. First, what is a good night sleep? Most would answer seven to eight unbroken hours. Some research calls this level this into question. What may be more important is simply meeting your own unique needs rather than panicking if you don't get the full eight hours. Many people, famously including Margaret Thatcher, thrive on four hours a night. Some are famous cat-nappers, as Winston Churchill was, who top-up their rest-requirements as needs be. The definition of a good night sleep becomes your own sense of well-being, feeling refreshed in the morning.
An important consideration is your body's own natural circadian rhythm. Our evolutionary heritage is essentially to go to bed with the sunset and rise with sun up. But this is complicated by some evidence suggesting that when our hunter-gatherer ancestors were on the move they gave up this routine and flourished on much shorter cycles of rest and activity as the hunt required.
This diversity in sleep patterns has left a legacy where some people may well have inherited a greater need for a long, nightly rest. And others, like Churchill, inherited an ability to recuperate quickly and have shorter bursts of activity. Again there’s evidence from the University of Zurich that you partly inherit a propensity to sleep well and deeply, or lightly.
What about misconceptions about sleep?
There are a number of myths around sleep. One is that if you feel sleepy mid-afternoon you've got a problem, i. e., you’re energy levels are too low. This isn't true and other cultures, e.g., Mediterranean ones, recognise this natural mid-afternoon dip requires a siesta. Whatever the climate it's normal to experience a mid-afternoon dip after eating lunch. Determine if you simply need to chill-out for a few moments while your energy returns or need a proper "Churchilian" catnap.
Another myth is that you’re stuck with your "type" of sleep. But with the following advice you can try many things to establish better sleep. Other misconceptions include that it’s "bad" to sleep for “too long” but research shows after extraordinary stress/illness the body naturally requires more sleep. That when you don't remember your dreams you haven't had them - completely untrue. And that “deep sleepers” get better sleep – again not necessarily true as some wake feeling lethargic.
What isn't disputed is that sleeping is a complex process involving many parts of the brain and neuro-chemicals. Its function is both to replenish the body physically and rest the mind to ensure mental agility. How much you need - and when you need it - is harder to determine.
What also isn’t disputed is that a real lack of sleep weakens your immune system, disturbs your ability to think and work efficiently, affects other abilities like driving skills, and impacts negatively on relationships. Who wants sex when feeling exhausted? And who can meet targets when too tired to think?
Secrets Of Sleep Success –
Here are a number of sleep secrets to try. Most based on research and others from my own and clients’ experiences of being light or disturbed sleepers.
You And Your Lifestyle Overall –
What you do when awake hugely impacts on your time asleep. I hate to be a killjoy but this means many lifestyle choices may have to be modified as part of a new routine including:
* How much stress is in your life? General stress is a major culprit for keeping you awake worrying. As with any stress identify the cause of it rather than simply treating the symptom. As you eliminate stress generally in your life, your sleep cycle will improve.
* How much caffeine do you drink? Research confirms caffeine after 3pm impacts negatively on sleep even if your bedtime is, e.g., 11pm. Substitute decaffeinated teas/coffees with decaf or herbal drinks. Bear in mind that some decaffeinated coffee has a little caffeine!
* Do you enjoy alcohol? More than a unit or two of alcohol and you’re significantly more likely to have a rebound effect. This is where a few hours into sleep, your body naturally "fights off" the effects of alcohol, giving a surge of energy that can wake you up.
* What foods do you eat? You may love hot and spicy cuisine (as I do) but things like chilli, onions and garlic stimulate circulation. Keep these for a lunchtime culinary delight and after 7pm choose foods with soporific qualities like turkey, salmon, low GI foods like oats, wholegrain pastas, lentil dishes, and even lettuce or banana sandwiches. Avoid processed foods high in sugar and/or salt - both can frazzle your wellbeing.
* Do you exercise? If not choose something you enjoy to do regularly. You might hate the gym but if you love something like dancing build it into your routine. Regular exercise promotes wellbeing - promoting in turn better quality sleep. Don't do vigorous exercise within three hours of your bedtime, though. Your circulation keeps pumping for a number of hours making sleep difficult.
* Are you a techno junkie? If you love surfing the Net and playing computer games - beware! This focused mental activity increases restlessness and disturbs sleep. Stop using such technology at least an hour before bedtime.
* Do you love films and television? Likewise if you love watching films/programmes late at night ensure they’re not action thrillers, full of police chases. These raise adrenalin levels preventing relaxation.
* Are you an owl or a lark? Fascinating research found that most people fall into being an “owl” - coming to life later in the day, concentrating better in the afternoon, enjoy a late bedtime and are later to rise. "Larks" are the opposite - working best in the morning and preferring an earlier bedtime. Although research suggests you can retrain this, most people usually only successfully shift an hour or two one way or the other. That said, if work or relationship commitments mean you need to shift your body clock you can nap at appropriate times to make up for changes. Psychologically it's crucial to keep an open mind!
Specific Strategies For Day And Night -
After considering ALL the above here are specific strategies to use.
* Keep a sleep ‘diary’ for a week making a note of when you get off to sleep, wake up, and take catnaps. Look for any pattern and identify hot spots (worries, issues) that keep you awake.
* Once you've examined your sleep diary begin a Super Slumber routine tailored to your needs. After dinner do an activity that’s enjoyable but not over stimulating.
* Take a warm bath or shower - not hot as this can be of a stimulating. Take time to relax and enjoy it. Use calming aromatherapy oil in the bath - lavender oil is perfect.
* Read a magazine/book you find relaxing. Follow the same principle as with telly – reading over-stimulating material will keep you awake.
* Read or watch telly away from the bedroom. The bedroom should be associated with sleep (and sex!) not other activities. Some people (including me) find reading helpful in bed but it disturbs sleep for others.
* Use relaxation techniques. Start by clenching, then relaxing the major muscle groups. Next visualise a restful scene. Use deep breathing - inhale slowly and then exhale to the count of 10. Use relaxation techniques during the day when tension is mounting so you prevent it mounting to sleep-disruptive points.
* Relaxation tapes are helpful to some. From whale music to white noise and self-hypnosis tapes, experiment with different ones.
* Ensure bedroom temperature is balanced between not being too cold or so warm you’re kicking off covers.
* Bedroom lighting is important. Don't use a powerful reading light – over-stimulating. A dimmer switch is ideal for getting the right balance. Some find coloured light bulbs more relaxing.
* Noise levels in the bedroom can disrupt your sleep. Although some could sleep through a train most have some noise sensitivity. Heavy curtains, draft excluders, and earplugs where necessary will help.
* The use of colour is important in your bedroom. Calming colours include pale shades of blue, pale lavenders and lilacs - often used in mental health units. Pale brick and earth tones and fleshy-pinks also promote tranquillity. Deeper greens promote comfort. And darker earth tones/dark fleshy pinks/deep, rich butter tones are soothing.
* Emotional "Association's" play a part in sleep disturbances. Your bedroom should be a place only associated with sleep and not other activities. Having the TV going late at night is not helpful. Bringing files of work to bed is not advisable!
* Use a few drops of relaxing aromatherapy oil in your pillow stuffing - lavender, geranium, or sandalwood.
* During very stressful times take a herbal sleep remedy- available from health shops and chemists.
* Put out of your mind any worries. Make a list of ‘must-dos’ for the next day before you get in bed. Don’t think about them the rest of the evening. If stressful thoughts creep in, banish them.
* Sip relaxing camomile or other ‘night remedy’ teas. Any evening snacks should again consist of slow-burning carbohydrates. Snacking within 30 minutes of bedtime causes digestive activity keeping you awake.
* Having satisfying sex will help you sleep by releasing tension.
* Put "to bed" any rows, i.e., make up with your partner/family member before switching off the light.
* The quality of your mattress and bedding can either promote or inhibit a restful night. Seriously consider investing in a good quality (e.g. pocket sprung) mattress and bedding.
* Don't get your system out of sync by lying-in for hours on weekends. Research shows people who do this have poorer quality sleep. Allow yourself an extra hour - or 90 minutes maximum - but no more.
* Reassure yourself that if you wake early you will cope. Take one night at a time – worrying that you won’t “sleep all week” won’t help.
* Mentally “reframe” the way you think about your sleep needs. You may be trying to force yourself into a sleep pattern that’s actually unnatural for your body clock. Play around with it by slightly adjusting times, trying naps, and try rising earlier.
Finally, consult your doctor if you've tried ALL of the above and you still sleep poorly.
The Stages of Sleep:
Let’s begin by finding out what happens when you fall asleep. During sleep your brain undergoes many changes. Researchers measure these changes in terms of brain electrical activity. This electrical activity goes through a series of stages. In Stage One you begin to feel drowsy but are semi-conscious of your surroundings and your brain activity is fairly active. During Stages Two and Three you fall deeper into an unconscious state with calmer brain activity. You’re meandering towards the deeper reaches of your unconscious mind. In approximately twenty to thirty minutes you reach Stage Four sleep, or slow-wave sleep, where the electrical activity becomes gentle. This is the deepest level of sleep.
This pattern of brain waves change abruptly after about ninety minutes. A great burst of electrical activity occurs that is even livelier than the activity recorded when you’re fully awake! During this time your eye muscles twitch being named Rapid Eye Movement sleep or REM. REM sleep lasts for about twenty minutes and occurs in cycles of about ninety minutes. Woken during REM people report they were dreaming. Before REM Stage people will move about in their sleep. But during REM people undergo ‘sleep paralysis’ where their whole body, accept the chest for breathing and eyes, is paralysed. It is believed that this paralysis stops you from ‘acting out’ your dreams and potentially hurting yourself.
So what is the purpose of REM? Experiments show that REM deprivation leads to emotional and psychological disturbance. Although it’s important to recharge your batteries during sleep, it’s even more important to have REM sleep. This allows you to process important emotional issues.
Your Sleep Problems:
Approximately 25% of people suffer from sleep problems leaving them drained. Researchers believe ‘modern living’ is responsible. Eating processed foods with additives keep us awake, leading sedentary lives, and the stresses and strains of modern life keep us awake worrying. Although the recommendation for adults aged 25 and 60 is eight hours per night this varies depending on your energy requirements. Excluding rare disorders like narcolepsy (where a person drops off to sleep at unpredictable moments) sleep problems fall into three main types –
1/ Not being able to get off to sleep - Excess stress that leaves your mind fully switched on is the most common culprit for this. Follow the first step in my sleep routine below to help you switch off from stress and fall asleep.
2/ Early waking – Waking with the ‘dawn chorus’ and being unable to get back to sleep is usually associated with anxious/depressed mood. The long-term solution is to address issues that are causing you anger or sadness. Pent up emotions will cause early waking. Whether work, relationships, or family, draw up a list of what you’d like to change. Next set some small goals to bring about this change. Put your plan into action. As your confidence increases to tackle life issues so too will your sleep improve.
3/ Fitful sleep patterns – Fitful sleep is quite common and usually due to sleep apnoea, or shortness of breath. This is where the sleeper relaxes to such a point that their throat collapses inwards stopping the flow of oxygen. Their body then forces them to gasp – often waking themselves – but they fall straight back to sleep. In the morning they feel tired and aren’t quite sure why their night was disturbed. The signs of sleep apnoea are loud snoring and gasping noises. Get help from your doctor who may recommend sleep masks, or nasal ‘plasters’, or in severe cases surgery to reduce excess tissue in the throat.
Top Tips for Super Sleep:
a/ Know your caffeine threshold – the point in the day where any more caffeine will disrupt sleep. It may be as early as lunchtime or as late as 8.00 p.m. Try different points to see how you’re affected. Consider giving up caffeine altogether if sleep problems persist.
b/ Alcohol intake - more than a couple drinks may cause the rebound effect where your body surges with energy after three to four hours of poor quality, alcohol induced sleep.
c/ Avoid foods containing sugar - Sugar is a stimulant and is contained in many processed foods. Avoid where possible.
d/ Use relaxation techniques. Perhaps visualising a restful scene or learning to clench and then relax muscle groups. Use during the day when tension is mounting so you prevent it mounting to sleep-disruptive points.
e/ Take regular exercise before 7.00 p.m. Exercise burns excess stress, leaving you relaxed. However people get energy surges for a few hours after exercising so doing it in the evening may stop you getting off to sleep.
f/ Keep a sleep ‘diary’ for a week making a note of roughly when you get off to sleep, wake up, and take any catnaps. Catnaps should be limited to no more than one a day, no longer than 20 minutes.
g/ Ensure the bedroom is balanced between being too cold so you’re uncomfortable, and so warm you’re kicking off covers.
h/ Put a few drops of relaxing aromatherapy oil in your pillow stuffing. Add a few drops of lavender, geranium, or sandalwood oil to an almond oil base.
i./ Avoid intense interaction on technology within two hours of bedtime – PCs, computer games, etc., over-stimulate the senses.
j/ For particularly stressful times keep a herbal sleep remedy in your home - available from good health shops and chemists.
My 10-Step Sleep Routine:
1/ Put out of your mind any worries from the day. Make a list of ‘must-dos’ for the next day before you get in bed. Refuse to think about them the rest of the evening. If stressful thoughts creep up, ban them by saying ‘NO!’ within your mind. Remember worrying at night won’t solve the problem!
2/ Don’t watch television/videos that distress you. Violent images will give you a surge of adrenalin and literally keep you awake with fear.
3/ Have a warm, soothing bath/shower to start unwinding. Include a few drops of aromatherapy oil (as above) for de-stressing.
4/ Read a magazine/book you find relaxing. You need to follow the same principle as with telly – reading material that’s over-stimulating will keep you awake.
5/ Read or watch telly away from the bedroom. The bedroom should be associated with sleep (and sex!), not other activities.
6/ Sip a relaxing cup of camomile or other ‘night remedy’ teas. Any evening snacks should consist of slow-burning carbohydrates. Snacking within 30 minutes of bedtime may result in digestive activity keeping you awake.
7/ Counting sheep can be boring so instead call to mind a relaxing moment. Perhaps visualise lying on the warm sand during a recent holiday.
8/ Having satisfying sex will help you sleep by giving you a sense of well-being and releasing tension.
9/ Take a few deep breaths, holding for a count of five and breathe out slowly.
10/ Reassure yourself - if you wake early, you WILL get through your day. Take one night at a time – worrying that you won’t ‘sleep all week’ won’t help.
The British Sleep Society – email@example.com
National Sleep Foundation – www.sleepfoundation.org
Fun Facts and Figures:
1/ Men are more likely to complain their partner’s feet are cold. Women are more likely to complain their partner hogs the bed.
2/ 15% of people are happy when their partner’s away to have the bed to them selves.
3/ 25% of people admit using the spare room because their partner disturbs them.
4/ The average person sweats over half a pint per night – into the bed!
5/ A five-year-old pillow is 50% house dust mite droppings!
Published in The Express Newspaper
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In Depth Feature About Your Child's Dreams & Nightmares
In Your Child's Dreams
Here I highlight the significance of your children's dream life
I clearly recall the moment I realised how important my children's dreams were in understanding their emotional and developmental state. It was one ordinary morning over a bowl of cereal when my son was four that he exclaimed, "Mum, I had the most exciting dream last night about a friendly dinosaur!" I asked him to describe his dream, admittedly paying only casual attention with the busy day ahead at the forefront of my mind.
My son described riding across an open plain on the back of a baby diplodocus. There was such exuberance in his tone and detail in his description that I was caught up in the excitement and touched by the expression on his little face. I'd recently done some dream interpretation seminars, albeit aimed at adults’ dreams, but until that moment I hadn't really thought about the potential significance of my children's dreams. It dawned on me that merely flicking through a dinosaur book from the library had touched my son’s inner creativity, sparking his dream. This was powerful stuff knowing that his young mind had absorbed these images and played with them yielding such a sense of adventure.
"Why don't we go to the Natural History Museum on Saturday?" I suggested picking up on his enthusiasm. That idea thrilled him and he couldn't wait to see the “friendly” dinosaurs as well as some scary ones. After that morning, his dreams of adventures and exploration fuelled many outings, drawings and projects. And it was the same when my daughter was old enough to recount her dreams - they stimulated all sorts of dressing-up costumes, artwork, and little plays where she roped-in friends to play various roles.
As time went on and I went through a difficult divorce from their father I became sensitive to any nightmarish images in their dreams. There were times when such images said more about how they felt than what they actually said during the day. These raised my awareness to being particularly responsive to their emotional needs.
This is a key point that I'd like to share with other parents: your children's dreams speak volumes about their inner life, not only about happy and confident feelings. Their dreamscapes, as I call them, abound with information about how they feel in the face of challenges, say, at school and with their peers, as well as anxieties they might harbour over events in the family and other issues. And of course as adults our dreams are bursting with symbolism. What's fascinating is that often the meaning of the symbol in an adult dream will have a similar meaning in a child's dream. Some of the examples of common symbols in children's dreams (see box) are common to adult dreams too.
In fact I believe your child's dreamscapes are so rich that I recommend listening to, and talking about, their dreams and nightmares as a creative parenting technique: a technique that provides you with unique and varied information about your child’s innermost th bursting oughts and feelings.
As with the adult mind, this is because when your child dreams the limbic system - the primitive brain system involved in our most powerful emotions - goes into overdrive. It throws up all sorts of images and feelings that have meaning, deeply-rooted in their psyche. Exploring your child's dreamscapes reveal some of the things percolating deep in their mind that they may not even be aware of. Because very often a child absorbs things occurring around them, processes them at this unconscious level, only for them to be revealed in dream images. It’s helpful to think of their sleeping mind as actually "awake" but at another level - that of the unconscious that’s all too willing to reveal things that in waking life your child may keep to themselves.
A perfect example can be found in Mark's nightmare. Mark was eight when he had a terrifying nightmare of being on a ship that resembled his home that felt "wrong". Waves started to envelop the ship and him. Every time he moved the waves came closer to completely swamping him. He felt helpless in the face that these waves despite the ship looking like his home. Mark had woken up and gone into his parents room for comfort.
A little probing found that his parents argued frequently and believed that he wasn't old enough to understand these rows or be affected by them. However these did overwhelm Mark and the enveloping waves were a dream symbol of how “enveloped” Mark felt about life at home right now. This came as a revelation to Mark's parents who acted to reassure him and made sure their discord was resolved.
Not only can you learn much about their emotional state, but your child's dreams and nightmares often tie-in with their developmental stage and how they’re coping with demands at school. Take Izzy, 10, who had a nightmare about her science teacher. In brief, she found herself in the science classroom without her school jumper and blazer. Suddenly the science teacher yelled at her to, "Come here!" He demanded to know where her school uniform was but she had no idea what to tell him. He chastised her repeatedly in front of the class, as all the class stared, and no one attempted to stop him.
When over breakfast Izzy mentioned her horrible nightmare, her mother naturally started questioning her about it. She knew Izzy always went to school with her uniform and wondered what was really at the bottom of this. She then discovered the science teacher had sometimes embarrassed and undermined Izzy in class by singling her out when she didn’t fully understand something. Her mother had been surprised by Izzy’s declining science grades that year. Now she had an explanation and could address this appropriately with Izzy. She also planned a meeting with the science teacher to point out how Izzy felt undermined in class.
Of course it's not always possible to understand the symbolism in your child's dreams. And certainly dream symbolism at times can be absurd, having been strung together by a child's sleeping mind from unrelated incidents. In such cases the symbols don't have any real meaning. However what’s crucial to realise as a parent is that the simple act of paying that special bit of attention to what your child says about their dreams, is enormously beneficial to your relationship.
Your child feels that you're interested in something generated from within them. Rather than feeling you're only interested when they bring home something from school that’s been marked, or they achieve a certain level in music or some other skill. Such external things that show progress, skill-development and achievement are important but shouldn't repeatedly take precedence over your child and their inner emotional life. Their dreams give you the chance to connect with them in a way that's rare and special, strengthening your parent-child bond.
Analysing Your Child's Dreams
Your child's dreamscapes can be very complicated. Because of this individual images within their dreams can serve as a great starting point for understanding their meaning. I fully explain my system of interpretation techniques in my book and how it's important to bear in mind that your child’s unique dream may be influenced by a specific context. Therefore the following common symbols are only a loose guide to go by.
Common Symbols in Positive Dreams –
Here are six of the most common symbols signifying positive feelings. Not only do such dream images give your child a sense of happiness but they can also indicate general levels of confidence and well-being. Exploring them can give you insight into what your child is feeling good about as well as being a springboard for creative play.
* Flying or having other extraordinary powers - images around these themes symbolise your child’s going through a positive period of personal/emotional growth.
* Discovering something like a buried treasure, special implement, or exotic item - dream symbols like these show that your child’s just learned something new that they’re pleased about like a skill or are enjoying investigating/doing something new in waking life.
* Talking animals or family pets that act like companions - dreams that contain such symbols demonstrate that your child feels very attached to and gets comfort from a pet. Or if it's not a pet but still a happy experience with, e.g., a talking animal, it symbolises a positive connection to nature.
* Scaling a mountain or a big wall with a positive and happy feeling - your child’s excelling at something, perhaps at school, symbolised by these dream images. They’re rising to the challenge symbolising growing confidence.
* Confidently doing something in front of a classroom or peer group - dream images where your child sings, speaks, or shows something to their class or peer group, accompanied by happy feelings, shows a very positive adjustment to that group.
* Meeting their favourite sports or pop star - dream images where they get to meet someone famous that they admire symbolises true wish fulfilment. Wish fulfilment is a very straightforward emotional state where something they’d love to have happen occurs in their dream.
Common Symbols in Nightmares -
Here are six of the most common symbols signifying unhappy or anxious feelings. Gentle probing of such images will give you important details like whether your child freezes in the face of these threatening images, runs from them, or face them down. These in turn indicate how overwhelmed your child feels, or how prepared they feel to face things that worry them. Always use worrying dream symbolism or nightmarish images, that your child reports, as one piece in the puzzle of trying to work out what may be troubling them. It can be starting point for open-ended questions around the subject matter of the symbols.
* Wild animals on the loose - lions, tigers, wolves, etc., that roam around unfettered usually signify a specific anxiety provoking situation. It may be the fear of a teacher or a bully and this fear takes on the form of a wild animal.
* Monsters, ghosts and ghouls - unlike nightmares of wild animals symbolising specific worries, images of monsters and ghosts tend to symbolise generalised anxieties. Generalised anxieties can take the form shyness, timidity, and clinginess. And like these nightmare images are hard for a child to describe.
* Raging fire or volcano - these symbolise an explosive sense of fear and often represent a new and frightening situation a child’s been put into.
* Being taunted by other children - such images can symbolise actual bullying that your child’s experiencing or a sense that somehow they don't fit in.
* Falling off a high wall, from a building or a cliff - these images can symbolise a sense that your child feels unsupported at home over something they feel anxious about.
* Getting lost in a jungle, wilderness, or other unknown territory - when a child has a nightmare containing such an unknown image it often symbolises the sense that they’re completely lost with a situation. Often such nightmare images aren't as frightening as the above but are still unpleasant, often relating to things like skill-development and academic achievement.
Check out my two dream books in the book section
Published in The Times
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Your Sexy Dreams Have Secret Meanings!
Your Sexy Dreams Might Have Some Secret Meanings!
With my "Dream Doctor" hat on I reveal what your red-hot sex dreams really mean
See my book Sex Dreams and Symbols - Understanding Your Subconscious Desires - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sex-Dreams-Symbols-Pam-Spurr/dp/185906289X/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244122912&sr=1-5
Ever wondered where a sexy dream of yours came from? You wake up thinking, "Wow, that was hot - but, crikey, what on earth did it mean?" It might be you dreamt of having passionate sex with a woman when you're not lesbian or didn't think you were bi-curious. Or you dreamt of sleeping with someone at work that you've never, ever fancied - in fact quite the opposite - finding them really unattractive.
There’s usually a hidden symbol or symbols in such dreams that your subconscious mind wants you to take note of. But sometimes your sexy dreams make complete sense because you’re dreaming of the boyfriend you love, or your favourite soap or pop star that you find completely fanciable.
Why Do You Dream?
Just as good quality sleep helps you recharge yourself physically, your dreams recharge you emotionally. That's because during the dream stage of sleep - called REM stage sleep for rapid eye movement - the limbic system of your brain goes into free fall. The limbic system is responsible for our most powerful emotions and it literally has a clean-out during our dreaming.
Sometimes it throws up dreams that make complete sense. At other times it throws up dream images that are both surprising and even shocking - like having sex with the boss who has just told you off that day. This is because your mind wants to slowly unveil and unwrap the things you feel and think. It offers-up these images that make you question your dreams. That means you start a bit of self analysis which can be a very good thing.
How Can You Begin to Interpret Your Dreams?
Think carefully about your dream images and they can make sense. To help you decipher your dreams I've formulated the Dream (D.R.E.A.M.) Key technique:
D is for detail: think about which detail stood out most in your dream? Let's say there were snake- like things writhing all around you. They made you feel sexy. In a dream like this, such detail can represent you longing for sex. The writhing snake-like things represent your inner desires to have a man in your life.
R is for recognition: is there anything recognisable in your dream? Think through the dream images and whether your dream was set somewhere recognisable or featured someone you knew. The more recognisable features there are in your dream, the more it's based in reality. The less recognisable, the more your sleeping mind is trying to slowly reveal a message to you. And so it uses ‘veiled’ or unrecognisable symbolism to break a message slowly and subtly to you.
E is for emotion: think back to how you felt when you woke up and what was the most powerful emotion in your dream? Did you feel sexual excitement, anxiety, fulfilment, etc.? That’s important as a guide to what your mind is trying to tell you. Let's say you're having sex in the dream, and you feel very anxious during the sex, that means your subconscious mind’s trying to tell you that you need to face any inhibitions you might have.
A is for action/inaction: recall whether you're the one leading the action in your dream or if you're a passive observer - maybe watching someone else have sex. If you're an active participant in what's happening, it reveals that you want to assert yourself or recognise something about yourself - like recognising that you'd quite like to experiment more in bed. If you're passively watching other people do sexual things it symbolises that you're probably lacking sexual confidence or feel you on the "outside" in a sexual relationship.
M is for meaning: finally if you think carefully about your dream can you guess the meaning? Since our dreams are there to help us understand more about our deeper emotions sometimes examining them reveals their meaning to our lives. So relax, think back to your dream, and be open-minded about what the symbolism from your sleeping mind was trying to tell you.
Three Of the Most Common Sex Dreams and What They Really Mean:
1/ Having Hot Ex-Sex: it can be a big worry when you dream of having hot sex with your Ex-Partner. Especially if you're with someone new it can cause anxiety. I can reassure you that dreaming of sex with your Ex is a really common sex dream.
A Typical Dream Scenario: You dream that you're having passionate sex with your Ex - usually in the same way - doing the same things -you would’ve done when together as if nothing has changed. If you're in a new relationship your new partner, or someone else, might walk in on you two in bed.
The Hidden Meaning: Trust me, such dreams don't necessarily mean you actually want sex with your Ex. These dream symbols usually mean you longing for something that you feel comfortable with and that's familiar to you. It might be that you feel a bit insecure in your new relationship so your sleeping mind takes you back to a time when you were comfortable.
If your new partner, or someone else, discovers you having sex with your Ex is usually a sign from your subconscious mind signalling that you need to sort out how you feel in your new relationship. And that you probably have some mixed feelings about it.
Dreams of sex with your Ex spell danger if you keep dreaming about them. Recurring dreams about them symbolises that you're not over your Ex or that sex with your new partner isn’t as good as with your Ex.
2/Having Sex With Someone of the Same Sex When You're Not Gay: dreaming that you're having sizzling sex with someone of your sex doesn't necessarily mean you're bi-curious. You might think it's extremely bizarre but believe me it’s common. Men in particular get anxious when they’ve dreamt about having sex with another man as they think it reflects on their sexuality - but this usually isn't the case.
A Typical Dream Scenario: Very often this type of sex dream occurs somewhere you don't recognise - they're usually not set in your own bedroom or home. You're also likely to dream that you're the passive participant and it's the other person that is in charge of the sex.
The Hidden Meaning: Such sex dreams are more about emotional and intimate curiosity, generally, then a desire to try gay sex. It's one way for your subconscious mind to allow you ‘let go’ and do something that's new. That's the reason why the setting is somewhere unknown as your sleeping mind’s hinting that you need to experiment more - get out and do something different! Often the hidden meaning is about being less inhibited in the bedroom.
But, again, if this is a recurrent dream theme then it's very likely deep-down you’re bi-curious and you’d like to experiment with someone of the same sex.
3/ Sex With a Boss/Colleague That You Don't Like/Fancy: having a sexy dream like this can completely mystify you. You wonder why you'd dream about having raunchy sex with a boss or someone else you don’t like?
A Typical Dream Scenario: You probably find yourself in this person's office or in your office having sex. Often it's likely and activesex and you end up on the desk, on the floor, or basically all over the place.
The Hidden Meaning: When you dream of sex with someone you don't like it's usually your subconscious mind telling you that you need to take control of the situation. These dreams are more about a ‘power struggle' and less likely to be about actual sex. In your dream life your sleeping mind gives you that control by having passionate sex with the person but crucially in the way you want it.
But if you're not enjoying the sex with this person it's a big symbol that you really don't know how to handle things with them - whoever they are in your life.
Published on MSN.co.uk
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Understanding Children's Dreams And Nightmares
Understand Your Child's Dreams And Nightmares - And Understand Them
Try my creative parenting technique
When my children were young I discovered a unique way to find out more about their emotional well-being was to ask them over breakfast about their dreams. I was astonished to find that even at ages four or five they could recall vivid images from their dreams - and from nightmares.
The dreaming mind –
When asleep, the brain’s limbic system goes into overdrive. It’s responsible for processing powerful emotions and it releases these into our dreamscapes as I call them. You might wake from a dream or nightmare startled by the "story" it told you; so too do children.
This is a rich and untapped source of emotional information for you. Because when your child’s asleep the usual daytime restrictions don't apply to their dreams. When awake they might feel restricted about mentioning something like wanting to see their father if you’re separated, or even feel nervous mentioning they were bullied at school the day before. But their dream life’s another story! It chatters beyond their control.
It's wonderful to know you can "listen" to this by asking your children what they've dreamt of. Also I've developed this into a creative parenting tool as it allows you as a parent to focus on something that comes from within them. This is important because we parents often only focus on our child's achievements at school or whether they've passed, say, their swimming or music test.
The power of a child's nightmare -
Take Ben’s mother, Sarah, who was worried over nightmares he'd had. Ben, nine, hadn't said much to her about his feelings over his parents’ divorce. It was acrimonious and although Sarah tried to keep the worst of the tensions from Ben she knew deep down he was absorbing some of the ill feeling. Still, when she asked him how he was feeling he’d say he was okay.
But his nightmares spoke volumes of his real feelings. He rushed into her bedroom on different nights scared to his wits about the volcano that was erupting in his dream. Sarah was astounded to hear that when he repeatedly cried for help in his nightmare neither of his parents came to him.
It soon became apparent to Sarah that the volcano in his nightmares represented the volcanic emotions around him. The fact that his pleas for help were ignored symbolised that inside he felt ignored. Sarah discussed this with Ben's father and they both resolved to handle their difficulties in a more positive way. They also became more attentive to Ben rather than taking him at his word that he was okay.
The creativity in a child's dreams -
It's not just your child's nightmares that can inform you of their emotional state but you can also use your child's dreams as a springboard for improving your communication, strengthening your relationship and as the basis for creative projects. Get involved when your child describes a lively dreamscape. Ask if they want to put some of the wonderful images into a painting or some other fun project.
I'll never forget my daughter at age six having happy dreams of a fairy that she named Sally. We then decided to make her a fairy dressing-up costume out of bits-and-bobs from the sewing basket. She had loads of fun making little plays come alive with Sally the fairy as the main character.
Key dream symbols of emotional well-being–
You'll find many symbols of your child's well-being in their dreams. A few common ones include taking leaping bounds up something like a mountainside, having a wonderful skill that seems magical, or learning a new task (young children often dream of tying their shoes when they’ve mastered this). Also soaring in the sky but not accompanied by a feeling of anxiety. If that dream image is accompanied by anxiety it may mean your child feels on their own with some sort of issue.
Key dream symbols of anxieties –
Unfortunately your child may experience a number of terrifying images. The most common ones are shapeless monsters that chase them or lurk in their nightmare, signalling a general anxiety. This might be a non-specific school anxiety or worry about home. Other common ones include falling from something more like a building or cliff signaling an anxiety over a meeting some sort of challenge - perhaps a school exam. And being picked on by others or being embarrassed in a school scenario may symbolise being bullied or isolated at school.
Discussing your child's dreams -
Three top tips are: 1. Definitely keep conversations about your child's dreams relaxed, even if they're describing a terrifying nightmare. If you get anxious it'll make them feel even worse. 2. Ask them if there's anything they recognise in their dream to give you a clue about whether it symbolises something to do with home, friends, school, etc. 3. See if they can describe the overwhelming emotion of the dream - did they feel happy, frightened, excited, or a bit anxious, etc., when they woke.
Some dreams are a jumble of images without particular meaning. If you can't work out any meaning in their dream or nightmare simply take the opportunity to chat about something that came straight from their heart.
Published in The Express Newspaper
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Dream theme: Lesbian lust
Name: Jan S.
Dream: I'd gone into my local coffee shop and everything was as normal. I asked for my favourite cappuccino and stood at the counter while it was being made. I surveyed the restaurant and brilliant sunshine seemed to be breaking through the windows. A woman on her own caught my eye. I didn't pay for my cappuccino and it was very frothy. I went and sat right next to the woman even though the restaurant was empty and as I sipped it the froth spilled over my lips. The staff seemed to melt away so we were truly on our own. She smiled and looked at my cappuccino which was going out of control - it was frothing everywhere. Suddenly she leaned over and literally started licking my cheeks, my lips, my neck - to get all the froth off. Before I knew it we were touching and caressing each other. It felt fantastic. I've never had a lesbian encounter what could this mean?
Background: Jan is a 37 you will divorce who works as a hospital technician.
Practical interpretation: Jan was surprised but not upset by her dream. Although she never had a lesbian find she had often wondered about it and fantasised during sex with man about women. "the brilliant sunshine breaking through" symbolised her up a wakening to these feelings at a new level. "the frothing cappuccino" quite literally symbolised her sexual desires were bubbling up inside her. "the staff melting away" symbolised the fact she still kept these feelings very secret and didn't wish to acknowledge them publicly. "the woman licking her face, lips, etc." was a veiled symbol of her desire for the woman to actually lick her genitals. The dream was quite freeing for Jan and she decided she might check out some bi-sexual or lesbian events.
Dream theme: animal symbolism
Name: Leslie P.
Dream: I found myself in some riding stables and didn't really know what to do. I got a little panicked wondering was I supposed to groom the horses, or feed them, or even ride them? Just then Jack walked into the stables. He immediately sensed my panic. He said, "don't worry, the horses are here for your pleasure." He helped me mount a big stallion and walked me around the yard. As we walked my clitoris was being stimulated by the saddle and I started to say things like, "this feels so good, don't let this stop." At the same time I felt completely embarrassed that I was saying sexual things around him. Jack didn't seem to notice but I didn't want to dismount and simply continued walking the around in circles as I pleasured myself.
Background: Leslie is a 25 year-old student teacher who has never been particularly interested in riding horses. Recently she been very attracted to a fellow teacher, who is married, which she felt quite guilty about. She's been avoiding Jack since this dream.
Practical interpretation: the horse in Leslie's dream it is a symbol for what she really wants to do with the Jack. Her sub conscious pre-tax term by a putting her in this scenario where she's not quite sure what she's supposed to do. Jack then it enters and tells her it's fine to be pleasured by the horse. This symbolises what she'd really like him to do in real life, take charge and lead her into a sexual experience. Telling him how good it feels and going round and round on the horse is actually a symbol of her wanting him to caress her, and make love to her, over and over again. Getting her feelings for a Jack out into the open made her feel she could now a knowledge them and take control of them. Talking about the dream gave her back the power to feel she could stop avoiding him and act naturally again. Sometimes we take the power out of our unacceptable desires by talking through them and meeting them head on.
Dream theme: weather-related symbolism
Name: Cindy B.
Dream: it was time to leave the office and so I packed everything away into my briefcase. Everything seemed to take a long time. I lined up all my paperwork, pens and other items of stationery perfectly inside the case. I then became aware of the time and thought I really must leave as I’ll be the last one out. I felt really fed up and didn't want the responsibility of locking up the whole office building. Even though in real life this would never be my job as we have a 24 hour security service. As I got out the building I noticed the weather changing. There had been a few raindrops which then turned into a large storm. The wind was whipping my hair, my face and lips and dragging my clothes off of me. I heard the roar of thunder and felt quite frightened yet at the same time finding myself naked in a violent rainstorm, I felt quite excited. When I woke up I felt sexually aroused which seemed really weird after such a dream.
Background: Cindy is a 29 year-old accountant who it times feels frustrated by her work. She doesn't like the fact that it's seen as a straight-laced profession. She worries about the way people, particularly man, see her. She has had problems keeping a long-term relationship as she gets quite competitive over issues like pay packages and has chosen men were quite a week and had her. Some men have found her hard to handle.
Practical interpretation: this dream contains important symbols for Cindy that she needs to lighten up in her relationships with men. "feeling in charge of the building and having to pack everything away perfectly" symbolises how hard she feels she must try in her career. These symbols are accompanied by negative feelings. "the rain becoming violent and whipping her hair" symbolises the sense of trauma and power it would take to start getting her interested in a man. He need to be quite sexually powerful. "the storm leaving her naked" accompanied by a sexual arousal is a symbol that she does want to feel that some other powerful force will take her and arouse her. Cindy agreed she needed to line up about her work and look for stronger men than she had in the past.
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