weet dreams: books to help you make friends with the nightHypnos, the Greek god of sleep, usually slips in quietly, delivers his blissful gift of slumber then melts humbly, silently away into the shadows of the night. But the gods can be contrary. Though you offer up countless sheep trying to entice his arrival, sometimes Hypnos is nowhere to be found, leaving you alone, agitated and wide-eyed in the dark. When the god of slumber abandons you, what better reading material to have by your bedside than books on sleep and dreaming? How to Sleep Soundly Tonight by Barbara L. Heller, is a charming and inexpensive little handbook full of simple, easily implemented methods for assessing your night's sleep and making it the healthiest, most restorative experience it can be. Heller takes a naturalistic approach, promoting sleep-inducing tips like keeping your feet warm at night or drinking chamomile tea, but she concludes with a chapter about what to do and where to turn when self-help doesn't work. The No More Sleepless Nights Workbook by Peter Hauri, Murray Jarman and Shirley Linde delves a little more deeply into the underlying causes of insomnia. (Hauri is the former director of the Mayo Clinic Insomnia Program and one of the world's leading authorities on the problem.) The workbook provides many self-examining questionnaires on topics like "Lifestyle," "Depression" and "Sleep History." These are designed to help you pinpoint your individual type of sleep problem before planning your own "better-sleep" program. This step-by-step approach is followed by chapters on solutions to each particular "sleep stealer," including night work, jet lag and Seasonal Affective Disorder. No More Sleepless Nights Workbook is a terrific overall resource book for insomniacs.
Though obviously many sleep robbers such as stress or a poor sleep environment are not gender related, certain sleep adversaries such as hormone-instigated night sweats or the demands of trying to juggle work and new motherhood are specific to women. A Woman's Guide to Sleep by Joyce A. Walsleben, Ph.
D., and Rita Baron-Faust addresses the particular stumbling blocks to sleep that women face from menstruation through menopause and beyond and offers a wealth of research, insight and advice in a scholarly yet accessible style.
These books are about getting to sleep, but once you've gotten there and have Hypnos paying regular nocturnal calls to your bedside, you'll want a visit from Morpheus, the god of dreams. (We mortals are so demanding!) In fact, many experts believe that REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which takes place during dreaming, is not only a normal and essential quality of "good" sleep, but plays a crucial role in memory and learning. Much has been written about why we dream, what we dream and what it all means, but The Committee of Sleep, by Deidre Barrett, Ph.
D., takes a different twist. Barrett presents dreams as a means of creative problem solving and explains how creative thinkers through the ages have capitalized on their subconscious visions. The book takes its title from a John Steinbeck quote: "It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it." In addition to authors, Committee discusses artists, musicians, filmmakers, scientists, mathematicians and others who have used their dreams something which "the committee" has fortuitously sent to them at night to enhance their creative work by day. This book will inspire you to keep a dream journal, so if and when the committee slips you a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize-winning idea, you can write it down and claim it for your own! If you or someone you know needs to make friends with the night, these books (and maybe a glass of warm milk) should help pave the way along the path to the Land of Nod. Sweet dreams!Linda Stankard is a writer in Cookeville, Tennessee.