Why it's time we woke up to the power of dreams
Does our sleeping self hold the key to happiness, asks Chrissie Russell
We've heard the saying that a problem can be solved by sleeping on it, but did you know you could be a few naps away from fixing everything that's wrong in your life?
According to a new book, The Dream Whisperer, by Davina Mackail, it's time to wake up to the fact that our dreams hold the key to answering life's problems -- from losing weight, to finding the perfect job, even the perfect partner.
Davina, a dream-analysis expert, says: "In ancient times dreams were revered and honoured -- yet in today's society they're dismissed as nonsense.
"We don't listen to our dreams because we don't understand them. The biggest step is acknowledging your dreams and think about why your mind has given you that dream."
A regular panellist on Channel Five's The Wright Stuff, Davina's expertise comes from personal experience where her dreams led her to find her biological father, start a new career and recognise her future husband.
She says: "In today's culture we've become so obsessed with the physical we don't take enough time out to address what our mental, spiritual or emotional side is telling us.
"A dream, especially a recurring one, is flagging something up that needs to be addressed and with a bit of time and a desire to engage with the subject, anyone can unlock what their dreams are telling them."
We look at eight ways to experience and analyse your dreams effectively.
1 Anyone can do it We all dream and we all have the ability to interpret our dreams.
According to Davina: "Our mind wouldn't give us something if we didn't have the tools to understand it."
Make a conscious decision to remember your dreams and keep a dream journal. When you wake up, lie still, then jot down the dream as it happened and any feelings associated with it. Simply by engaging with your dreams you open your mind up to understanding them better.
2 Create a dream-friendly environment Avoid alcohol before bed -- it acts as a dream depressant -- and forget about cheese promoting an active imagination, bananas are a better snack.
Keep electric appliances away from the bed and give your room a makeover -- keep mirrors away from the bed and ban bright colours and clutter because they overstimulate the nervous system.
Dreaming happens during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep -- create this by setting your alarm an hour early and hitting snooze.
3 Your dreams work for you Some of the world's greatest inventions and works of art were inspired by dreams, including Einstein's theory of relativity, the periodic table and Paul McCartney's 'Yesterday'.
You can focus your dreams by asking a question before you go to sleep; unrestricted by logic or reason, your mind can problem solve at its best -- all you need to do is interpret what your brain is saying once you wake.
4 But be aware that you might not like the answers
Dreams open the darker side of our subconscious and highlight issues we'd rather not address.
You know what it means, you just might not accept it.
5 Nightmares can be our best friends
Nightmares that stay with us all day long are an emergency hotline to pay attention to the unconscious mind.
Davina says: "We can lie to ourselves but we can't lie to our unconscious dreaming mind. Nightmares alert us to potential problems in life that we're not willing to face."
One woman Davina spoke to had a recurring dream that a lion ate her family -- the woman needed to assert herself and face family issues. Once she understood, the dream stopped.
6 We're all egotists in our sleep
All dreams relate to ourselves and the way to understand one is to identify what it means to us. The lion above related to a repressed side of the dreamer.
7 Interpreting themes All dreams have meaning and while each is specific to an individual there are some key themes. Killing someone most likely relates to needing to kill something off in your life. Death relates to transformation and a need for something to end.
Nakedness relates to primal anxiety and feeling vulnerable or exposed. Toilet dreams refer to letting go of emotional baggage.
Transport relates to your journey through life, the method of travel is important. Is the car broken down? Are you going off the rails?
Don't jump to literal conclusions. If you dream you're cheating on your husband, it's more likely to be about denying aspects of the masculine.
8 Dreaming is good for you Even without remembering or understanding them, dreams keep us mentally healthy.
In a study, students who were woken during REM but allowed eight hours of sleep experienced loss of concentration, irritability, hallucinations and signs of psychosis after three days.
When they were allowed their dream sleep, their minds made up for lost time by spending longer in REM.
The Dream Whisperer is available in bookshops, €12.75