Let me get directly to the point. It may be Sunday morning for you, but for me it's evening. It's been a long day, and I'm ready to go to sleep. I want my comfortable bed, our soft down pillows and a little evening breeze coming through the window. I plan to drift easily to sleep — and dream.
I'm a new fan of dreaming. My brother just had major surgery. It will take him several months to recover, and he is on heavy-duty pain medications. He needs restorative rest and succumbs very easily to a nap. And he dreams constantly. His dreams are reportedly wondrous. He flies in some of them. It's like having-a-camera-on-a-bird flying. He solves world problems in others. And he sometimes wakes up laughing.
I had a dream a few nights ago. I dreamt that all our neighbors reported to me my husband was having an affair with a woman named Diane. She was "from Paris," or so they said. When I awoke, I shared the dream-story with my husband (with just a little embellishment), and we both laughed. We were thoughtful about why that dream might have introduced itself into my sleeping psyche, and we had a lovely early-morning conversation. Admittedly, I gave him a hard time about the fact I'd had such a dream. He handled it well.
I shared with him — and now with you — wisdom provided me by a local self-appointed "dream expert," who said, "When you wake up from a dream, it's important to identify how you're feeling at that moment."
In fact, some researchers agree "finding the feeling" may be more relevant than remembering the details of your dream.
The benefits of dreaming may surprise you. There are credible studies to suggest dreamers are more creative and better able to consolidate memories. Dreams actually help us "process emotion" and can be a tool in dealing with depression. And, there's this: Dreamers are often more action-oriented than you expect them to be.
As illustration, I decided my dream about that woman named "Diane" might have practical use. So, the next morning, I put a handwritten note on the door from our kitchen to the garage. It said, "Let's keep your wife happy. Clean your work bench. Signed, Diane."
And he did it. My husband cleaned his work bench. In fact, he did it the very day I placed the note on the door. That would be the work bench that's been overflowing for months with dusty, seldom-used tools and tiny, long-dead insects — despite my constantly repeated requests to clean it. Maybe I'm on to something. Thanks, Diane.
If my husband was having an affair — which I assure you he is not — this is certainly one way to get it out in the open. This is just another benefit of dreaming. It tends to prompt people to talk about things they would otherwise not discuss at all. Dreaming can be a tool for self-discovery.
And dreams help us creatively solve problems, which Diane and I have clearly demonstrated to you in this column. So, tonight, I wish you sweet dreams. May you wake up laughing.
Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. Email her at email@example.com or call 541-776-7371, Ext. 210.