Awake, we believe we’re in the prime spaces of life. Sleep and dreams happen only when we’re forced to rest up. That’s what we’ve been told all out lifes, but what if the opposite is true?
What if the hours with so many fewer restrictions, restraints, of total privacy, soaring and imagining, hours when we can fly or struggle while finding our way home are the Real Thing? Is that what living really is, and the rest is support work? What if we are the most human when our eyes are shut tight and our imaginations are free?
by David Stone
There’s a song I love by Peter Peter Sarstedt with this lyric: “I know where you go to, my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed. I know the thoughts that surround you…”
Eh, well, no, Peter. You don’t. Like the rest of us, you’re lucky if you know where you go in your own head because that landscape is so strange and mysterious – to your play-it-simple waking self – you couldn’t see it if it was in your own face.
Actually, it is in your face, but you can’t see it like you can’t see ultraviolet or hear dog whistles. You don’t have the equipment, although you do in sleep and dreams. That’s exclusive territory.
About the Lions
What got me thinking about this was a simple fact I stumbled into in a book by Lewis Anthony, Babylon’s Arc. It’s the fascinating tale of rescuing animals in war-torn Baghdad. What I learned was – lions sleep or rest around 20 hours a day.
Irrelevant? I don’t think so. All of us animals developed from the same slurry of pond scum over millions of years. We took different twists and turns, but despite what we think, maybe that cat got things just right.
Some evolving animals grew fangs and razor-sharp teeth, and some became fleet afoot. Some became brainiacs, and I think you know who I mean.
But we all sleep. Not just for hours in the dark at night, but also at intervals, day and night. We accept the long nightly pause as an unavoidable waste of time. If we don’t sleep, we’ve learned, berserk is less than a day and half away.
Yet, maybe we think that way only because the only time we think about it is when we’re awake. We’re immediacy biased, and we have no comparison since dreams mostly evaporate fast.
Take It From the Lions
Although thinking is a consciously corralled activity, by the time we’re six or seven, we know it can be wrong or even wildly devoid of the logic on which we base our decisions. Laziness and personal preferences help mangle truth.
But none of that happens when we’re slumbering away because to think is to neither sleep nor dream. And in the depths of slumber, we can’t lie because everything is true. Generally, too, eyes closed, half our heads comfy in pillows, we don’t care either.
That’s the pure joy potential of it.
Chew on that the next time insomnia keeps you restless under the covers for half the night. You don’t feel good about all that wakefulness, do you? You’d feel better if you slept.
And what about all those things we push into our awake hours that mimic sleep and dreams? Movies, where we have no active participation – just like sleep. And TV? Yikes, even the commercials are emerging as surreal, with no connection with reality.
These are sleep-lite activities because, unlike lions, we feel like we ought to be doing something for more than four hours every day.
So, then, why do we consider sleeping and dreaming secondary when the opposite seems at least as likely to be true?
You sleep because you’re tired, and it refreshes you. That’s so you can get your butt out of bed and do all those things that make the limitless joy of drifting off into sleep possible.
Don’t knock it. It works.
How Sleep and Dreams are Magical
My friend, hard rock guitarist Binky Phillips mused about how his many songs got written in a Facebook Post.
He’d get a little bit, maybe a piece of a tune in his head, and let it ferment. About a month later, the whole song popped up complete like his head was a toaster. Butter me up!
Clearly, something more was going on than dreaming and wandering through weird zones of imagination.
In my experience, I wrote my first nonfiction book, A Million Different Things, when it popped into my head out of the blue. Before I set fingertips to keyboard, I knew the title, the format and how long it would be.
Before that, I remember thinking I’d never write a nonfiction title, although they sell best, because I lacked expertise in any subject area. I had nothing special to write about… but my sleeping self had a different idea.
Every morning for a month or two, I woke up with that day’s ideas and hustled to type them out while whatever sprouted in my mind overnight came gushing through. It was such a scramble to get it all down that I gave up trying to correct grammar on the fly.
Capitals, periods and commas went flying, waiting for a future rewrite.
Amazingly, I wrote about things – especially speculations on evolution – that I’d never thought about when I was awake.
That is, I suddenly knew things that I didn’t know and hatched ideas I never had. It was a gas.
Plenty of times, I started laughing as the words, sentences and paragraphs piled up on my computer. Like, “Holy shit. Look at that!”
That book was a product of sleep and dreams, and ever since publishing it, I’ve had a hard time accepting that waking hours are more important than the wonders that come between.
Waking is the forced labor of sleep.
What Else Happens in Sleep?
When waking hours end, your body does its own version of housekeeping.
It’s like a team of tiny janitors unleashed, cleaning up the mess left by the day. Cells are repaired, toxins are swept away, and your immune system gets a boost. Even your heart and blood vessels get some TLC.
And let’s not forget about those growth hormones being released, causing kids to sprout up like beanstalks and helping adults maintain their muscle mass and repair tissues. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel like a new person after a good night’s sleep, well, you kind of are.
But the pièce de résistance? Dreaming. That’s when your brain puts on a private screening of bizarre, funny, scary, or downright weird scenarios. It’s like your own personal cinema, complete with popcorn (we wish!), at no cost.
In this way, your sleeping self gets you ready to do its bidding by day, to go out there and work at making dreams safe and possible.
Implications of Sleep and Dreams as the Core
You probably couldn’t wish for a better scenario, but you can bet that the scientific community won’t like it. That’s because they can’t comprehend the sleep and dreams wonderland either.
If you can’t observe and measure, it can’t be real in the limited universe they created.
But you and I know it’s as as real as our waking life, actually super real, fuller and freer. You can sleep with the girl or guy next door – or the girl and the guy – without repercussions. Or, you can rob and steal and float like a butterfly over fields of beautiful flowers.
You can soar over mountains and glide down glaciers without ever catching a chill. Maybe being a better dreamer should rank ahead of being a better person.
But on the serious side, a compelling reason for sleeping and dreaming better may be because that’s when we’re most active in creating the world, joined with the universal subconscious where every thought, idea and dream is stored.
In plausible layouts inspired by biocentrism, we pool together in the endless sea of possibilities suggested by discoveries in quantum physics. There, we interact with the indefinite background energy making up every atom, and we build the comprehensive reality we consider the whole deal – when we’re awake.
In sleep and dreams, we’re all artists in the vast universe of artists and artists’ tools.
Once we overthrow the archaic bias that makes awake somehow better than asleep, we can create something special, more beautiful, more lyric and more peaceful.
Maybe we should sleep on it.