The Psychology of Lucid Dreaming

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

In the last decade there has been a great deal of research conducted into the potential benefits of lucid dreaming with regard to our overall health and well-being, and there have been some interesting findings. This article will look at the role of lucid dreaming in regard to both mental and physical health.

What is lucid dreaming?

A lucid dream happens when someone reaches a state of conscious awareness while asleep, once in this state of conscious awareness it is possible to manipulate your dreams and ultimately decide what happens during the dream. Studies show that 55% of people have had at least one lucid dream in their lifetime. Most episodes of lucid dreaming occur spontaneously, however it is possible to self-induce a lucid dream with practice.

Dreams and mental health

Research has shown that dreaming is essential to a healthy mind. Dreaming happens during the REM sleep phase, and your waking dream recall is much stronger during the final phase of REM sleep when the brain is at its most active, which is also when lucid dreaming tends to happen. 

Studies show that REM sleep is important for brain development, and the more time that someone spent in REM sleep the better they are at dealing with anxiety, worry and fear and the less likely they are to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Overnight therapy for the mind

Mathew Walker, professor pf psychology at California University and author of the book Why We Sleep believes dreaming to be a form of overnight therapy he states that dreaming “provides a nocturnal soothing balm that takes the short edges off of our emotional experiences so we feel better the next day.”

Lucid dreaming and motor learning

The scientific and medical community has become much more interested in lucid dreaming since discovering that practicing motor skills during a lucid dream actually results in real life improvement. Scientist found through a brain imaging study that the neural mechanisms associated with physical movement in the brain lit up during a lucid dream, just as it would in waking life, this is enough evidence to demonstrate that motor learning had taken place. 

These findings show that it is indeed possible to practice certain motor skills during a lucid dream and see an improvement in your waking ability as a result, whether is be practicing a new sports manoeuvre, a new art form or playing a musical instrument.

Lucid dreaming and self-improvement

Lucid dreaming could therefore play a role in self-improvement by helping someone develop different skills and talents which is important to personal growth and self-image. A lucid dream episode could also be valuable in helping someone to visualise their goals and all the positive emotions that are associated with that, this can be a powerful experience that can boost confidence, self-image and improve your mood throughout the day. 

The lucid dream world holds the potential for someone to create their own real life scenarios in which they are happy, fulfilled and successful, which can help improve mood and wellbeing in waking life as well as help give someone the confidence and self-belief that they need to achieve different life goals.

Connections Between Mental Health Symptoms And Poor Sleep 

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

More than one-half of insomnia cases occur in individuals with anxiety, depression or psychological stress. Across the globe, health officials find that sleep disorders  contribute to public health issues, and mental illness is at the core of this conversation. Cumulatively, a combination of effective mental health treatment and good sleep hygiene solutions can help combat sleep-related disorders and promote psychological well-being. 

Sleep and Mental Health Risks 

Traditionally, insomnia and other sleep disorders as symptoms were viewed as symptoms of psychological disorders. But the origins of both cases are more of a “chicken and the egg” phenomenon: the scientific community now believes that sleep problems directly contribute to psychiatric disorders. By extension, treating a sleep disorder may also help alleviate symptoms of poor mental health, if the two exist concurrently. In fact, researchers at the University of Oxford Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute reported a 60% improvement rate in mental health symptoms through treating sleep-related issues.  

Safe Remedies For Sleep 

Fortunately, there are a number of medicinal and non medicinal solutions for addressing a lack of sleep. A psychiatrist can work with you to devise a medication routine that promotes healthy sleep with minimal side effects. There are also a number of lifestyle choices you can make to encourage proper rest, such as turning off your smartphone and sleeping on a comfortable mattress. If you suspect your mattress is worn or filled with allergens, consult mattress reviews before purchasing a new one so that you find a mattress optimal for REM sleep. It is also important to stay active during the day: researchers from the University of Michigan recently reported that daytime exercise is linked to improved sleep performance in women over the age of 50, one of the demographics with the highest rate of sleep disturbances worldwide. 

What Is Sleep Hygiene? 

Sleep hygiene consists of a variety of different practices that are necessary for developing a quality sleep routine. Frequent sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness often indicate poor sleep hygiene. To improve the quality of your sleep, experts recommend giving yourself a half hour to “unwind” before bed without looking at your smartphone, which can stimulate alertness. During the hours before bed, practicing mindfulness meditation reduces insomnia symptoms, particularly if you are feeling anxious. Meditation is also linked to a host of other positive health benefits, including reduced brain fog, more clarity, and better focus, all of which can contribute to eliminating mental health disorders. 

Globally, the growing conversation about mental health needs to incorporate sleep and adequate solutions for addressing poor sleep routines. Ensuring proper sleep has tangible positive implications for treating mental illness, particularly for individuals struggling with anxiety and depressive thoughts at night.

How Can Nurses Reduce Work-Related Stress?

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

Nursing and other healthcare professions are considered high-stress occupations and a study published in the journal Curationis has found that there are five stress factors that override the rest. These include patient care, job demands, lack of support, staff problems, and having to work overtime. Nursing is inherently stressful because of the emergency nature of many cases attended to, the frequent need for overtime and night shift work, and (in some cases) less than ideal salaries. If you are a nurse facing stress, you may not be able to change the nature of your work, but studies show that there are many ways you can keep your ‘fight or flight response’ in check. One of these is cognitive behavioral therapy.

Why Should Stress be Taken Seriously in the Nursing Profession?

Patients depend on doctors and nurses to sustain their lives, so ensuring optimal health among healthcare professions is key. Professionals who are in a state of high stress or who have their ‘right or flight’ responses invoked can be more likely to commit errors or lose focus. Stress can lead to poor quality sleep, which in itself can hamper job performance. One 2019 Michigan State University study showed that issues such as a lack of support among nurses at work can lead to stress and loss of tempers, resulting in an increased risk of work injuries. Researchers recommend that hospitals implement strategies designed to improve the social environment for healthcare workers.

Psychological Therapy Reduces Stress in Nurses

A study on 40 nurses found that nurses who underwent two hours of cognitive-behavioral stress management sessions per week, had a significant decrease in their stress loads. Researchers believe that CBT can play an important role in increasing nurse efficiency as well. They note that around 7.4% of nurses are absent from their workplace because of burnout or stress-related disability. They are 80% more likely to face burnout than workers in other professions. The aim of CBT is to show patients the extent to which the way they think, feel, and behave in particular situations are interrelated. For instance, feeling stressed about work can then affect they way they interact with other nurses or their patients. When receiving CBT, nurses may be asked by their psychologist to keep a journal listing down their reactions to different situations. They might then be asked to make a small behavioral change and to observe how this affects the way they feel about or perceive a situation.

What Should Relaxation Programs for Nurses Involve?

In times of stress, therapists may also recommend some type of relaxation program. A study undertaken at Ohio State University showed that nurses reduced stress levels by 40% by following a relaxation program at work. The program involved an eight-week mindfulness-based intervention that included mindfulness, gentle stretching, meditation, and music - all conducted at work. Researchers recommended that this holistic approach be employed in hospitals and clinics to reduce nurse burnout.

Time Management and Routines are Key

Using time to full avail is vital for nurses. The first step towards good time management is finding ways in which time may be wasted on a day to day basis. Just a few issues causing stress may be failing to follow a strict sleeping routine, sleep late and rushing to work the next day, and spending all one’s free time in a sedentary fashion. By establishing a routine, key activities such as exercise, sleep, and getting to work on time and in a relaxed state, can be achieved. Nurses can reduce travel stress, for instance, by leaving a little earlier from home everyday, enjoying an energizing daily walk before starting work. Sleep is especially important for nurses because when sleep quality is poor, it can result in impaired cognitive performance, a greater rate of errors, and a depressed/anxious/irritable mood.

Aromatherapy Massage for Nurses can Help

In addition to embracing holistic practises, nurses should also consider so-called ‘alternative therapies’ that have been proven to bust stress. One of these is aromatherapy massage with music. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that this therapy was able to dramatically decrease stress in nurses working in an accident and emergency department.

Nurses and doctors have a high level of stress owing to various factors - including the life-or-death nature of their work. Hospitals should make nurses’ health a priority by offering relaxation programs and by working to improve the social environment. Finally, nurses can take part in anti-stress activities such as meditation, and establish a strict routine that enables them to make the most of their free time for exercise, rest, and social enjoyment.

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