Never underestimate the power of sleep

You might think that sleep is a dull part of life. Not for many of us. My greatest accomplishments occur at night while I am asleep.

That is when I, sometimes at least, achieve sports glory.

Recently, I dreamed that I was playing against Stephen Curry in a professional basketball game. Curry is the best guard in the game.

My team was two points ahead with time starting to run out.

As Curry brought the ball up the court, I stole it from him and went in for a layup.

I did the same thing the next time he tried to bring the ball up the court.

His team then moved the ball into scoring range. Curry took a shot over me, I rebounded the ball, dribbled the length of the court and scored.  

Rather than throw the ball into one of his teammates, the exasperated Curry tossed it in to me.  

Amazed, I took the ball and scored one final time before the game ended.  

That is what psychologists call a wish-fulfillment dream.

I bet you have had some of those, perhaps without the sports angle.

People can also have anxiety dreams. When I was a teen, I dreamed that I heard on the news that there was a killer on the loose.

I then heard a knock on the door of the family house and opened the door without peeping out first. It was the killer!

Some individuals suffer through frequent nightmares. These individuals are usually very anxious during the day. At night, the anxiety runs wild.  

Bad things other than nightmares can happen during slumber.

I would not like to develop the rare problem called exploding head syndrome.

That is where a person, when falling asleep or awakening, hears an extremely loud noise, like a bomb exploding.

When I was young, I would sometimes walk and talk in my sleep.

But I never went anywhere in particular and never said anything interesting.

Sleep apnoea is a common problem. In sleep apnoea, a person stops breathing often during sleep.

Failure to overcome sleep apnoea can lead to daytime fatigue, stroke or even heart failure.

Losing weight and reducing alcohol intake can help reduce sleep apnoea.

So, too, can using a machine that helps the person to breathe. So, how is your sleep?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England.