As our understanding of neurology increases, we begin to understand more about the relationship between mind, body and emotions. One of the biggest questions that has puzzled science is: why do we sleep and why do we dream? Research in REM, the rapid eye movement function in the sleep cycle, shows us that we use REM to both input and retrieve information. Often this information is symbolic, so that the unconscious mind presents images and symbols to the conscious mind that can be confusing and mind-boggling.
One aspect of dreaming is to process and resolve negative feeling and experiences from the day. Research tells us that people who take a nap in the afternoon have less stress-related chemistry in their system and are, therefore, happier as people. This is what, in the Mediterranean, is termed a siesta. It might just be that the apparent health of the Mediterranean lifestyle has as much to do with sleep as it has to do with diet.
In the experiments, participants were given a 90 minute nap and had their bloods checked before and after to measure hormonal markers. For most people, the afternoon nap made them measurably happier.
I know from my yoga work that people who do relaxation and meditation have periods of REM as they go into the relaxed state. I have also seen many yoga students reduce the amount of hours that they sleep each night as their meditation and relaxation increases. It is reckoned that the ratio of concentrated relaxation to sleep is about five to one. So that twenty minutes good quality relaxation is like one hour of good sleep.
My own daily practice include three periods of meditation each day that will last between half an hour to one hour per day. The most important session for me is my lunch-time one that sets me up for the afternoon and is my mini-siesta.
Check out the recordings on the website that will help you with your task of relaxing, letting go and being happy.
Happiness comes, not from what we hold on to, but from what we let go.
(Useful Research: Gujar, N. et al 2011 ‘A Role for REM sleep in recalibrating the sensitivity of the human brain to specific emotions.’ Cerebral Cortex 21, 1, 115-23. Griffin, J. and Tyrrell, I. 2004 ‘Dreaming reality: why dreaming keeps us sane or can drive us mad.’ HG Publishing)
Images credit: http://www.friendly-tips.com/tag/sleep/