What do St. Patrick’s Day, World Sleep Day, Rip Van Winkle and dreams share?1-3 Shamrocks, leprechauns, green drinks, deep sleep and this year, Friday, March 17! 

But how can you dream like Rip if sleep eludes you? The answer just may be in the word itself as the acronym S-L-E-E-P. 

Like the 19th-century farmer Rip Van Winkle, current spouse issues can rob us of sleep. Rip and his loyal dog wander into the Dutch Kaatskills (nowadays known as the Catskill Mountains) to escape his nagging wife and find a group of dwarfs and leprechauns playing ninepins. He drinks their liquor, falls asleep for 20 years and awakens as a white-bearded old man. The wee-folk and his dog are gone and his nagging wife has died.3 The story’s moral, that deep dreamy sleep can be a form of happily-ever-after, is backed by research. 

World Economic Forum sleep researchers asked couples to keep diaries on their relationship experiences and sleep habits. Lo and behold, couples with positive interactions had more efficient sleep.4 The National Sleep Foundation defines a healthy night’s sleep as seven to nine hours for young adults and seven to eight hours for older adults.5 

What role do dreams play? Dreams are microcosms of our waking world that reflect relationships, sex, work and health; dream images symbolize everyday life. The Cognitive Dreamwork problem-solving theory states that a dream’s function is to help people solve ongoing problems.6 But how can we dream if we cannot sleep? My acronym may help: 

S = Shhhh! Silence cell phones and TV. Noise disrupts rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the doorway to dreams

L = Light awakens us, so reduce natural and artificial light 

E-E = Eliminate electronics as beeping, blinking and humming may disturb REM sleep 

P = Positive position. Discover yours – stomach, side or back to drift into dreamland 

In dreams, green shamrocks, green leprechauns and rainbows are colors associated with growth, life, good health and luck, like “Luck of the Irish.” Leprechaun dreams can be positive symbolizing a little financial luck, or negative with a play on words as in “green with envy.” The green, forest-dwelling bearded sprites are the bankers and cobblers of the fairy world who store gold at the end of the rainbow and are magical shape-shifting tricksters who can grant wishes or create disasters in your life.7 

St. Paddy’s Day, World Sleep Day and Rip Van Winkle share mystical leprechauns, magical green liquid and blissful dream themes. If you celebrate on March 17, avoid overindulging or your dreams may become nightmares when you awaken to mischievous wee folk playing ninepins in your noggin. But remember, write down your dreams because they may hold the key to your future. 

Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos of Rancho Mirage is a survivor, author, dream expert, speaker, TV/radio host/producer and has been featured on Dr. Oz and The Doctors. Her new book Dreams That Can Save Your Life is available now. For more information, visit www.KathleenOkeefeKanavos.com.

References: 1) https://www.wincalendar.com/Saint-Patricks-Day; 2) https://www.wincalendar.com/World-Sleep-Day; 3)  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Rip-Van-Winkle-short-story-by-Irving; 4) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/heres-how-your-relationships-affect-your-sleep; 5) https://www.sleephealthjournal.org/article/S2352-7218(15)00015-7/fulltext; 6) https://www.picmonic.com/pathways/college/courses/standard/humanities-social-studies-8836/dream-theory-2444/cognitive-theories-of-dreaming_1795; 7) https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/62173/15-lucky-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-leprechauns

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