DREAMER? A new sleep tech­nique could in­crease your pro­duc­tiv­ity

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There is noth­ing more bor­ing than other peo­ple’s dreams. So I’ll try to be con­cise when I tell you that one of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries is of a dream I had when I was three years old. I was in a fire en­gine, wear­ing yel­low wellies and a coat over my nightie. I said to one of the fire­men (yes, I was bor­ingly gen­der­biased as an in­fant), ‘I know this is a dream, be­cause I don’t know any fire­men, I don’t have any yel­low boots, and if this was real life I wouldn’t be wear­ing a nightie.’ Then, to test my the­ory, I climbed up the pole with ease – some­thing I would have found im­pos­si­ble in re­al­ity – and slid down. I re­peated this un­til I woke up. Al­though I didn’t know it, I was hav­ing a lu­cid dream – an ex­pe­ri­ence in which you are aware that the dream is hap­pen­ing and you can con­trol your ac­tions within it. Lu­cid dream­ing is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in the well­ness com­mu­nity. Why? Be­cause it can make you more pro­duc­tive, more pos­i­tive and can even help to man­age men­tal health. Tree Carr, a mys­tic and dream­ing guide who runs dream work­shops from Mal­ibu to Mar­gate, ex­plains, ‘Lu­cid dream­ing can be very ben­e­fi­cial for peo­ple with anx­i­ety or pho­bias.’ As some­one who strug­gles with an anx­i­ety dis­or­der, this sounds very ap­peal­ing. I de­cided to try Char­lie Mor­ley’s on­line Awake Academy lu­cid dream­ing video course. Char­lie has been teach­ing mind­ful­ness and lu­cid dream­ing for nine years. Ad­mit­tedly, I’m a lit­tle scep­ti­cal, or rather, ner­vous that I won’t be a good stu­dent. That said, un­like school, this is one oc­ca­sion where I’m sup­posed to sleep in class…

A new sleep tech­nique could make you more pos­i­tive, pro­duc­tive and hap­pier. Daisy Buchanan tries it out…

The dream jour­nal

Char­lie ex­plains that most of us will typ­i­cally have four to five dream pe­ri­ods a night, and it’s key to keep a jour­nal, where we write down as much de­tail as we can. I’m a bit con­cerned mine will end up as a se­ries of hu­mil­i­at­ing scrib­bled notes, like ‘OLD SCHOOL + NO PANTS?’ Still, Char­lie says that he once worked with an older man who in­sisted that he never dreamed, but sim­ply keep­ing a jour­nal was enough to trig­ger his mem­ory. He said,

‘I’ve been dream­ing for 62 years, I just didn’t care to no­tice!’

I keep my phone next to my bed in aero­plane mode, and when I jolt awake at 4am, aware that I’ve been dream­ing about some­thing, I make as many notes as I can, writ­ing, ‘Han­nah friend chris­ten­ing din­ner gate crash­ing,’ be­fore go­ing to sleep again.

I don’t re­mem­ber any other dreams, but in the morn­ing I’m able to fill in the blanks. I’d dreamt that I’d been sup­posed to be meet­ing my friend Han­nah for din­ner, got the date wrong, and ended up at her friend’s daugh­ter’s chris­ten­ing, where ev­ery­one was too po­lite to tell me that I re­ally wasn’t in­vited. Al­though the dream wasn’t log­i­cal, some of the rec­ol­lec­tions and emo­tions were re­ally over­whelm­ing. I could re­mem­ber the dust motes danc­ing through the air, high­lighted by the sun­light com­ing through the church win­dow. More im­por­tantly, I could re­mem­ber be­ing hot with shame and awk­ward­ness, how hor­ri­ble it felt to seem so out of place. It oc­curred to me that I of­ten wake up feel­ing sim­i­larly emo­tion­ally un­set­tled.

De­cid­ing on a dream

Still, Char­lie is very con­fi­dent that lu­cid dream­ing is the way to deal with past trau­mas and bad ex­pe­ri­ences, be­cause we’re en­gag­ing with the parts of the brain that we can’t ac­cess when we’re con­scious, and all the wis­dom we’ve ever ac­cu­mu­lated. So, I set an in­ten­tion and at­tempt to ‘make a re­quest to the dream­ing mind’. As I go to sleep, I think about the topic I have the great­est anx­i­ety about – money. At the mo­ment, my hus­band and I are sav­ing to buy a house, and I spend a lot of time pan­ick­ing about the mort­gage process, con­vinced that our lives will de­scend into some sort of Kafkaesque fi­nan­cial night­mare. So, as I start to go to sleep, I ask the ques­tion, ‘Will I ever buy a house?’

This is a mis­take, be­cause in­stead of drop­ping off, I start ob­ses­sively fret­ting about my tax re­turn, re­gret­ting ev­ery ASOS pur­chase of the past 12 months and won­der­ing whether

I’ll ever be paid for some work I in­voiced for last sum­mer. When I do fall asleep, I dream of try­ing to get cash at an ATM and hav­ing ev­ery sin­gle one of my cards de­clined. There is no op­por­tu­nity to go lu­cid or take con­trol of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Happy sleep habits

Feel­ing quite dis­cour­aged, I speak to Tree. She echoes Char­lie, and tells me not to fret when dreams get a bit wor­ry­ing. ‘Learn­ing to con­trol your night­mares, face them and change the out­come of the dream can give the dreamer quite a bit of heal­ing,’ she ex­plains. I de­cide to make my­self as re­laxed as pos­si­ble, and in­stead of putting pres­sure on my­self to have a lu­cid dream, do what I can to have a happy one. Be­fore bed, I have a long bath with laven­der oil. I drink some va­le­rian tea, which is sup­posed to aid sleep, and I spray my pil­low with yet more laven­der. Rather than re­ly­ing on my brain to think re­lax­ing thoughts – left to its own de­vices it’s only go­ing to yell ‘WHY HAVEN’T YOU GOT A PEN­SION?!’ at me – I reread one of my favourite Nancy Mit­ford nov­els un­til my eye­lids flut­ter. Un­usu­ally,

I sleep soundly un­til morn­ing. I strug­gle to work out what to put in my dream jour­nal, but I have a vague mem­ory of happy thoughts. I re­mem­ber a room dec­o­rated in pink and pale gold, the smell of paint and cake, and some­thing to do with jew­ellery.

Keep­ing it kind

To­day’s work­shop is all about ‘com­pas­sion­ate ac­cep­tance’, as suc­cess­ful lu­cid dream­ing is linked to mind­ful­ness and thought­ful kind­ness. Char­lie bluntly ex­plains that when we start man­ag­ing our dream life more con­sciously,

‘we be­come lu­cidly aware of when we start pro­ject­ing our bull­shit on to oth­ers.’ Like

pretty much ev­ery­one I know, I have a lapsed Headspace sub­scrip­tion, and I’m fa­mil­iar with mind­ful­ness but don’t prac­tise it nearly enough. I toy with go­ing for a walk and re­ally notic­ing some leaves, but in the end, what does it for me is care­lessly scrolling through In­sta­gram and re­ally notic­ing how jeal­ous I feel of a friend’s ex­cit­ing work trip. I do a deep dive into my jeal­ousy and work through it, even­tu­ally deal­ing with my envy by pitch­ing a travel fea­ture. Then I get it. I can go to Mau­ri­tius in my dreams! I can lie on a de­serted beach with­out feel­ing self­con­scious about be­ing in a bikini! That night, I go to sleep imag­in­ing my­self on a lilo, in the mid­dle of a tran­quil sea. Sadly, I do not dream of a hol­i­day but I sleep heav­ily and wake up happy.

Mak­ing it mem­o­rable

Ad­mit­tedly I’ve strug­gled with some of Char­lie’s ad­vice and longed for some­thing more spe­cific. How­ever, to­day he obliges by say­ing that we need to work on our wak­ing mem­ory in or­der to im­prove our dream re­call and open the lu­cid gate­way. ‘Try re­mem­ber­ing a friend’s phone num­ber, or mem­o­ris­ing your to-do list,’ he ex­plains, so I have a go. I mem­o­rise the 16-digit num­ber on my debit card and try to walk around Mor­risons with­out pick­ing up my phone and check­ing my shop­ping list. I make a con­nec­tion be­tween mem­o­ris­ing and mind­ful­ness – I find that I need to be sharply fo­cused, and to re­ally think about any feel­ings or sen­sa­tions that will help to sear these facts into my con­scious­ness. Char­lie sug­gests a mantra – ‘tonight, I re­mem­ber my dreams’ – and rec­om­mends set­ting an alarm a cou­ple of hours be­fore I’d usu­ally wake up, dur­ing the fi­nal pe­riod of REM sleep.

I set my alarm for half five, and when it goes off the next morn­ing, it’s a hor­ri­ble shock.

I’ve been dream­ing about be­ing fired from a mys­te­ri­ous job, while fin­ish­ing a novel that I’ve been work­ing on. When I think about it deeply, I re­alise that I have ex­pe­ri­enced a cou­ple of mo­ments of lu­cid­ity. When the fir­ing hap­pens, I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘This can’t be real, be­cause I am free­lance, I don’t need to worry about this,’ while hav­ing a flash of in­sight about my un­fin­ished novel, re­al­is­ing that I can do it in real life and I just need to keep go­ing.

Lu­cid learn­ing

Right now, I feel mixed about my ex­pe­ri­ences, and a lit­tle frus­trated that I haven’t quite man­aged to achieve a fully lu­cid dream. How­ever, while try­ing to learn to lu­cid dream, I’ve learnt to sleep bet­ter, think more pos­i­tively, boost my mem­ory skills and be much kin­der to my­self and oth­ers. Also, I feel as though this is the very be­gin­ning of the ex­per­i­ment. Tree ex­plains to me that this is a life­long jour­ney, and I should be in­spired to ‘carry on ex­plor­ing my own con­scious­ness through the dream states’. Just record­ing my dreams and delv­ing into the way my brain man­i­fests and presents thoughts and mem­o­ries has made me re­alise that I can ease my anx­i­ety with pa­tience and self-com­pas­sion, and that feels like an in­cred­i­bly use­ful les­son.

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