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A New Approach to Sleep & Dreams

Our current, conventional, highly mechanistic approach to understanding and healing sleep and dream problems is failing.  My work is meant to lay a foundation for a new approach, one that is, in the broadest sense of the term, integrative. Although it wholeheartedly supports the integration of conventional medical treatments with those of complementary and alternative medicine, this work is primarily concerned with an even more fundamental integration, that of the segregated aspects of our consciousness. Truly effective strategies for preventing and healing sleep and dream disorders are ham­pered by the absence of such an approach.

We cannot meaningfully understand sleeping, dreaming and waking independently of one another and outside of the larger context of their daily rhythmic sweep through our lives. In recognizing their continuity, an integrative approach reinstates a critical sense of something desperately lacking in our highly mechanized and driven world: nature’s fundamental rhythmicity.

This integrative perspective invites subjectivity back into science. It recognizes the importance of personal and social meaning as a balance to hard science’s overly objective posture toward night consciousness. In doing so, it acknowledges, considers, and respects the legitimacy of the personal experiences of sleeping, dreaming, and awakening. Essentially, it restores consciousness itself to night.

An integrative approach also incorporates spirit back into science. It calls for complementing sleep medicine’s objectivity with a depth psychological and traditional, sacred view of night consciousness. Such a spiritual perspective of night is certainly not new. Regard for sacred dimensions of night and night conscious­ness is found in all major Eastern and Western religious traditions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Ancient and indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices, as well as metaphysical teachings, also acknowledge the sanctity of darkness, sleeping, dreaming, and awakening. For example, Rudolf Steiner, the prolific nineteenth-century Austrian philosopher, lectured extensively and passionately about the critical role of sleep and dreams in spiritual life. The integration of sleep science with personal meaning and spiritual perspectives opens the way to a more expansive, magnificent, and mythic vision of night, sleep and dreams.