Monday, 2 June 2014

A Different Perspective: the Anthropology of Sleep, or, "Sleep is for Dreaming".

Like the working day, the entertainment industry, and the economy, the need for eight hours of undisturbed sleep a night is a man-made construct; a force against which we cannot escape. In our modern lives, there's hardly a second to spare in the day; we must be working, getting organised, cleaning, exercising, socialising, caring for our families, commuting... we're cramming more minutes into 24 hours than rationally possible, and something has to give -

   - and more often than not, it's sleep. You try to get to bed at a reasonable hour, but it's just not happening. 

   And then we get stressed, because everybody knows that we need at least eight hours sleep a night, otherwise we're slashing our health, lifespan and mental/physical performance in half. Not to mention, they don't call it 'beauty sleep' for nothing.

   Okay. Let me stop you there. Calm down, and grab a cup of chamomile tea, breathe in some Origins Peace of Mind or Aveda's Stress Fix, or just old-fashioned lavender oil, and take a full, deep, cleansing breath. 

   We're made to feel bad by the health industry for all the things we're not doing right. It's a profitable industry to do so. And you know what? Sometimes they're right - sometimes, you need to shift your priorities, make some radical changes in your life. However, worrying about all the things you're not doing right is more harm than good. Focus, instead, on what you already are doing, on the changes you can fluidly put in place, and, here's the crucial one: shift your perspective.

   Less than eight hours sleep a night is fine. There will be days when you get more. There will be days where you get less. 

   Do you have trouble getting to sleep? Carve out calming, sleep inducing rituals. Drink sleep easy, surround yourself with aromatherapy. Watch these succinct videos:

Do you find that you wake in the middle of the night, worried, unhappy? Yeah, been there. But, regardless, a straight eight hours sleep a night - with no room for alternative - isn't a 'natural' and indisputably reality, or even a necessity.

We have the capacity to sleep in different ways; in the past, in our culture, and amongst some peoples today, sleep is segmented. Luhrman illustrates this in her recent NY Times article, 'To Dream in Different Cultures', where she describes how the inhabitants of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island, never sleep alone, and have 'punctuated' sleep. When a child calls, someone is sleepless, or people are shifting and turning, others wake, and chat, and attend. This is not a cause for concern: sleep is interrupted; this is how it is. When this happens, dreams are more likely to be remembered, and are remembered more vividly. 

Feverishly, deliriously, magically, dreams and wakefulness merge in a way our Western, time choked lives never allow. 

Let's stop looking at sleep as something to anxiously pencil into our day, to stop ourselves from falling to pieces. 

Shift your perspective:

Sleep is for dreaming.

Sleep opens up your world; it is an exploration of the possibilities from within you, that you never knew you had.

What do you dream about?

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