When I began this journey into the Land of Nod, sleep, to me, was a murky puzzle. I was mystified by the apparent dormancy of our minds during slumber; clueless concerning the nature and purpose of our dreams; and frustrated by my own baffling inability to get a good night's rest.
Well, I won't pretend I've solved the mysteries of sleep, but after more than a month on this slumbo-trail — and with the help of some of the pre-eminent thinkers in the field of sleep and dreams — I feel like I've pulled back the curtain a bit and taken a peek inside.
On the practical side, doctors at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic helped me understand how a mild respiratory glitch, a faulty biological clock and a host of bad bedtime habits had conspired to fill my nights with sleepless frustration. I also was mightily impressed, in my conversations with the experts, by our busy society's misguided disregard for the importance of slumber: It's the reason victims of sleep disorders get so little compassion, I believe, and the source of a growing, nationwide sleep debt.
In my more speculative slumbo-adventures, I met people who use their dreams as the source of practical insights, and others for whom dreams are the road to the spirit inside. I met lucid dreamers, who can control the actions of their dreams — I even managed a lucid dream of my own — and I spoke with a pioneering dream theorist who explained how our dreams of the departed can bring us resolution, acceptance and peace. These encounters, and my own experience, convinced me that dreams are not mere imagination, they're the product of the sleeping mind, thinking in profound and poetic ways.
More than anything, though, I've come away from my journey with a new respect and fascination for slumber. So many fascinating things happen when we close our eyes at night, it's as if we live a second life beneath the covers.
I'll never take sleep for granted again, and I'll never stop appreciating and investigating my life as a sleeper. I want to sleep more wisely and restfully (I'm experimenting with afternoon naps). I want my dreams to be always more vivid and meaningful. So for me, the journey doesn't end, it will continue here in my bed.
If you'd like to continue your own dream journey, here are some books and other information sources to help you along the trail:
Basic Sleep Information
These very readable books offer a comprehensive overview of the physiological aspects of sleep and dreams, including information about sleep disorders, sleep rhythms and so on.
- Sleep Thieves, by Stanley Coren (The Free Press).
- The Sleepwatchers, by William C. Dement (Stanford Alumni Association)
- The Enchanted World of Sleep, by Peretz LaVie (Yale University Press)
Experts on Dreaming
Stephen LaBerge and Patricia Garfield are two of the best-known authorities on lucid dreams. Their books describe the phenomenon in detail and provide structured training programs to help put you in control of your dreams:
- Creative Dreaming: Plan and Control Your Dreams to Develop Creativity, Overcome Fears, Solve Problems and Create a Better Self, by Patricia Garfield (Fireside, Simon and Schuster)
- Lucid Dreaming: The Power of Being Awake and Aware in Your Dreams, by Stephen LaBerge (Ballantine Books)
- Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming: A Step-by-Step Guide ..., by Stephen LaBerge (Ballantine Books)
Gayle Delaney's approach to dream interpretation focuses on finding dream messages that can make a practical difference in your work, your relationships and your self-image. Jeremy Taylor sees dreams as a pathway leading to spiritual truths. Both are among the most respected dream workers going.
- Living Your Dreams: The Classic Bestseller on Becoming Your Own Dream Expert, by Gayle Delaney (HarperCollins)
- Breakthrough Dreaming: How to Tap the Power of Your 24-Hour Mind, by Gayle Delaney
- Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using Dreams to Tap the Power of the Unconscious, by Jeremy Taylor (Warner Books)
- Dream Work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Powers in Dreams, by Jeremy Taylor (Paulist Press)
- The Dream Messenger: How Dreams of the Departed Bring Healing Gifts, by Patricia Garfield (Simon and Schuster).
And now it's time to tuck this project in and say goodnight. I've traveled thousands of miles. Endured pain, indignity, humiliation and a hose up my nose. And I wind up where I started - alone, in my bed, a single sleeper longing for a snooze.
Am I ready? Have I learned enough?
I asked every question I could think of.
Visited experts across the land.
Slept in strange beds ...
Flew in lots of airplanes ...
Up in the clouds ...
Sea to ... shining ...