How to cure insomnia (okay, how I did)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Globe and Mail has an article here today on sleep deprivation and its effect on society - basically that far too many adults believe that they don't need a full night's sleep in order to function and end up falling asleep at their jobs, making bad decisions, etc. etc. I was quite an insomniac until my mid-teens, but this went away after about a few months training myself to dream lucidly.

Most now know what lucid dreaming is but in case you don't, it is simply dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming, instead of dreaming under the impression that you're still awake, no matter how weird the dream may be. You're at home and a pack of rabid wolves begins breaking down the door and you're afraid even though it makes absolutely no sense that wolves would do such a thing, or you get on the bus and realize that you forgot your pants and are embarrassed even though there's absolutely no way you would make it to the bus stop without realizing that you have no pants, etc.

Moments like this are keys to lucid dreaming, as you can teach yourself to constantly check for events that don't make sense, upon which you become lucid within the dream. The dream continues as usual, but now you know that it's a dream and can do what you want. You may decide that you've had enough of the wolves and will now just ignore them, or you might decide that you don't care that you don't have any pants on the bus, or look around for a pair to put on, or may just jump out the window and begin flying (though sometimes staying in flight is a bit tough).

However, before getting to this point there is a preliminary step: writing down your dreams. This is because there is no sense in learning to dream lucidly if you still don't remember most of them, and the best way to remember them is to write them as soon as you wake up. Without doing so they will tend to vanish within just a few minutes of waking up, and if you do something unrelated to your dreams as soon as you get up (check your email, begin making breakfast...) then you'll almost certainly forget most of them.

So how did this cure my insomnia? Easy: it turned the dream world from a daily chore into a more complete world of its own that I began to look forward to entering every night, and instead of lying down and thinking "okay, now stay still and stop thinking and get X hours of sleep" I began to think about the recurring places in my dreams that I might explore in further detail that night, and that seems to have a preparatory effect in bringing your mind away from the physical world and towards the next. I can't guarantee that this will cure insomnia in others, but this is what worked for me. Mind you, I did not begin attempting to dream lucidly with this goal in mind (I never really minded being an insomniac), it was simply a side effect. It would be interesting to hear if anyone else has done the same thing.

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