Posted by: fireandstone | April 7, 2010

Sleepy Time Adventures

So, true to my word, I’m going to wax random and spew a stream of consciousness about one of my long time favorite subjects: dreaming. At one point in my life, during one of my “spiritual” phases (I’ve since come to the conclusion that life is *itself* the the spiritual phase, but that’s for another post at another time), I became quite adept at the fine art of lucid dreaming, which basically means taking partial or total conscious control of your dream environment. It’s not as hard as it sounds, and the details of doing so can readily be found on the internet, but I say all that to say this: the dream world is absolutely one of the most “primal” places we spend time in the modern world. To what survival advantage or physiological process the act of dreaming serves is still up for debate, but as an adaptation it’s pretty popular because we share this phenomenon extensively with other animals, but what we do know about dreams is pretty interesting in itself. Most dreams center on anxiety of some kind, whether social or physical. Mine have a tendency to focus on sprinting and avoiding obstacles while either chasing things or running from dangers (which comically have included over the years: doglike monsters, the police, alien spaceships, Freddy Krueger).

This is where the Paleo link comes in: we do alot of things in our dreams that we don’t do in our regular, polite lives, and many of them are very natural things to do. Sprinting is something I do constantly in my dreams, but only occasionally in the real world, and even then only in predesignated places that make the act unlikely to be perceived as a post-robbery get away run, for which I’m all dressed for the occasion in recognizable athletic attire. Sprinting is one the best feelings in the world, it’s like screaming at the top of your lungs or smashing some article of technology that never works when you need it to. You just feel like you’ve been set free from the cage and the sky is the limit. It’s just not something you do in polite society because polite society isn’t intense. It’s regulated and predictable and nothing is too fast or too loud. But you want to sprint, you’re body wants to sprint and your dream mind knows you want to sprint. The dream world is a place of freedom where all of our truly human impulses are explored and given expression.

But oddly enough, even dreaming is sort of an impolite thing to do. People don’t lightly discuss the content of their dreams with others, fearing that we’re letting out little secrets about our inner minds that we’d rather not share. If the world is nice and neat and polite, then our private mental space should be as well. Alot of people I know don’t recall dreams often, and don’t really want to. All in all it’s just some surreal interruption of the sleep that’s going to see them through to another day of well structured living. I guess there’s a case then for why hunter-gatherers are so good at recalling dreams and incorporate their dream experiences openly into the fabric of their social structure. Dreaming is a natural and integrative process in  life, which links us to deeper levels of our innate humanity…those deep layers that we spend a lifetime burying under heaps and gobs of order and gentility.

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Responses

  1. “Alot of people I know don’t recall dreams often, and don’t really want to.”

    I hardly ever remembered my dreams in spite of eagerly looking forward to them…the few I would remember were always so bizarre and interesting. A few months ago I started taking an iodoral supplement and immediately started remembering my dreams in all their vivid, strange glory. Another pleasant side effect is that for the first time since childhood I wake up refreshed and full of energy instead of zombie-like with a tendency to bump into walls.

    • That’s interesting. Was the increased dream recall an unexpected side effect of the iodine, or is there some data linking iodine deficiency to sleep pattern problems?

  2. I don’t know whether the dream recall is a common side effect, but I’m pretty sure that sleep is affected by iodine levels and the state of the thyroid. It’s something that I’ve added to my list to continue studying, as I learn how to adopt a modern version of an evolutionary diet.

    I started taking the iodoral supplement because of the huge discussion in the paleo-sphere about iodine deficiency and thyroid problems. I looked into the symptoms, and decided that I might be slightly deficient. Since I began supplementation, I’ve noticed an immediate change in several things besides remembering my dreams. I wake up refreshed and ready to go, whereas it used to take me about 20 – 30 minutes each morning to completely “boot up”. I think the most surprising changes are that I have a much stronger desire to organize my surroundings and a general increase in self-motivation. I literally feel compelled to organize things in a way that I never did before, and have spent weeks now doing things like decluttering the house, throwing things away, and cleaning out drawers. I am always working on something, and have lots of projects going on. This is a great improvement for me, because I used to always have problems with energy and motivation…the desire was there, but the will wasn’t, and I wondered what was wrong with me. It has really been a relief to discover that it was diet-related and not a flaw in my personality.

    I noticed an improvement when I went off grains, as well, but it seems like the iodine supplementation has taken me that last little step of the way.

    • Interesting response. I’m particularly interested in iodine’s effect on health and vigor for moderns because it has direct relevance to the so-called “Aquatic Ape” theory of human evolution, with which I have fairly strong sympathy. Thanks for your input!


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