Sleep is universal for animals. The need to rest shapes how we plan our days, search for food, and connect with others and ourselves. The use and timing of sleep is different based on the animals. When animals rest the body refreshes for the active times to come. The majority of animals can be thought of as diurnal, nocturnal, cathemeral (being active during both day and night), crepuscular (active during twilight), and ultradian (active in cycles of a few hours). There are even more specific descriptors for the various sleep patterns of other animals. Ability to find resources, protection offered by social structures, and ability to socialize play a large part in how animals choose sleep patterns. People tend to be active during the day but can make conscious choices about their sleep schedules. Nocturnal animals such as bats shy from the sun for their active periods, sleeping during the day, and prefer to be active by night. Cats big and household and a number of predators are often active during twilight hours, when the time of day is changing. Sloths sleep the great majority of the day and only rise for a small portion to eat. A few animals like dolphins and sharks select which parts of their brains are active when awake to stay moving during the whole day. The goal of sleep for people at the basic level is refreshing the mind for the next day.
When we rest our mind organizes the day and connects what we experienced to past memories and lessons. The consciousness we experience during sleep varies the usual form we are used to during hours of wakeful activity.
Rest is a time of subconscious memory organization for people. There are several phases of sleep that can be characterized based on the actions taken by the mind. In general sleep can be broken down into three stages. First is closing your eyes and still being able to wake easily. Second is light sleep where heart rate slows and the body temperature drops. The third is deep sleep where it is harder to rise and being awoken can leave you disoriented for a short time. It is during the third stage when we reach REM (or rapid eye movement) sleep and when we dream. The brain is most active during this period. The power of dreams is a source of inspiration for classical and modern stories alike. Many cultures have images of guides moving us through dreams. Hypnos, Morpheus, and Nyx are Greek personifications and guides for sleep, dreams, and the night, respectively. Cultures have a varied list of their own representatives for the night as well. There are several modern references and images for these roles in modern culture as well.
Most people forget the dreams they had within a few minutes of waking. This is thought to possibly be a result of the fact we are not focusing on remembering what is going on when we sleep and dream. There are people that practice lucid dreaming where they actively look for signs they are in a dream and work to raise their consciousness within the dream to be able to become active in leading the direction their dreams take. Lucid dreamers keep record of what happens in the dreams they have as ways to develop the subconscious muscles to know when they are dreaming and take action. The power of the subconscious mind to reveal new details about us and show what we are processing on a deep level is extensive. Dreams connect the layers of self we are not able to experience during regular wakefulness. There was a show that explored the idea of dreams being fracture points for our lived reality. Control is empowering and guides how we feel about the actions taken throughout our days. The connections to choice and being active members in our decisions gives ownership over the outcomes we experience. What would life be as an experience if we had the same levels of recollection and volition as in dreams? Continuity of days is a subtle blessing. The construction of self is tied largely to the decisions we hold as memories. How would you shape your world if everyday could be a new experience? How do you think dreams have changed from generation to generation? What could sleep look like in the years to come? Share your thoughts and dreams as they find you.