A dearth of dreams


I stopped remembering my dreams years ago. I can’t be sure of exactly when, but I suspect it correlates with when I was working full-time in HR at a hospital, taking a full courseload in grad school, teaching two English Comp. courses at said school, and learning to be the father of a newborn baby boy named Logan. Sleep was at a premium and I just didn’t notice that in addition to the 2-3 hours of sleep I was missing every night, I also started losing my close connection to my sleeping mind.

I’ve only recently felt the loss in a way that troubles me. When I was younger I had vivid, powerful dreams. My journal is full of them. They were the inspiration for many of my stories, philosophical ideas, inventions, and general curiosity. Working on the book for the past six months has made me acutely aware of a void in my imaginative capacity. I suppose I have noticed the issue a few times in the years between, but I’ve really only paid it passing heed. Now, however, I would really like that part of my mind back.

Tonight a thought struck me: I have been sleep-deprived for more than eight years.

I downloaded an app a while back to track my sleep cycle. I’ve compiled six months of data and here’s what it looks like:

Since Logan’s birth I have consistently gotten 6-7 hours of sleep a night. I learned in high school that my body doesn’t function well on less than eight. When I have a full night’s sleep the effects are immediate and pronounced: I’m more aware of my surroundings and myself, my thoughts move more quickly, I process speech significantly better, and I have an overall better sense of well-being.

And I dream. Last weekend I had two nights of proper sleep. On the second night I had such a vivid dream that I could fully recount it for my journal when I got around to recording it several days later. The dream itself was…weird. It involved a man, an oversized urinal, a school, and various other elements that only added to the weirdness. The day of the dream I wrote three pages of my book in about an hour.

Many powerful thinkers (Descartes, Schopenhauer, Taleb) have written about their need to sleep and wake on a natural rhythm to have any chance at functioning creatively. No alarm clocks to pull them out of a REM cycle. In fact, many of Descartes’ epiphanies supposedly sprang from his dreams.

I know that my sleep deficit is affecting my creativity. No doubt about it. Here’s the problem: I don’t function on corporate time. If I followed my natural rhythms I’d be up until midnight and I wouldn’t wake until about 8 a.m. That’s not going to work with my current gig at all. However, now that I’ve explicitly diagnosed the problem, I have the ability to find a solution. And I’ll need to do that if I want to have a serious chance at pursuing my dreams, both the literal and the figurative.


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