Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Elusive Nature of Sleep

by Holly Govey

(Wiki commons)
“I’m so tired” is by far the most common phrase heard at school by both teachers and students. This abundance of tiredness can be attributed to a number of reasons: either practical (e.g. the unreasonable amount of homework received) or psychological (e.g. the continued difficulties in dealing with everyday emotions) but - whatever its cause- tiredness continues to affect us all and sleep deprivation is a pivotal factor of this exhaustion.
Whether so encompassed in our frenetic day to day lives that sleep is too difficult to achieve or suffering from mild bouts of frequent insomnia, this elusive but essential part of our continued existence can be hard to find- making life if not unbearable, definitely unsatisfactory.
Sleep is defined as a “naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness”. It is indispensable for both physical and mental processes that occur in the body- providing crucial time to relax the mind and accentuate the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems.
Dreaming can be identified as the perceived experience of sensory images and sounds during sleep; however I prefer to think of them as subconscious streams of thought. While on the surface they may not seem to be of significant importance, many people have proposed hypotheses about the functions of dreaming. 
For example, Sigmund Freud postulated that dreams are the symbolic expression of frustrated desires that have been relegated to the unconscious mind. In this way Freud suggests that dreams are attempts by the unconscious to resolve conflicts of some sort, whether recent occasions or recesses from the past.
In some ways I can see where Freud is coming from- I am well acquainted with the challenging struggle to empty the mind of all thoughts and worries in order to achieve sleep and so can sympathise with the idea of some conflicts being relegated to the unconscious in order to be continually contemplated.

However, seeing as most of my dreams are ostensibly centred on food or places that I have been (apart from some of the more random memories of surreal situations) I tend to disagree with the weight of analysis that Freud applies to them- believing instead that dreams signify the fact that we are never truly still, but in a constant cycle of regeneration.
So as the winter looms, a prime time for both illness and tiredness- I prepare to apply myself wholeheartedly to the aim of acquiring the most sleep possible in order to benefit from the positive effects as a result and would implore others to do the same.

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