An excerpt from an article in Living Metaphysics: A practical spiritual guide, 'Rest and Relaxation'.
CERTAIN aspects of our life in a modern world can work against our ability to benefit from sleep. The increase of urbanisation and noise pollution, of stress in the work place, the increased intake of caffeine and other stimulants, and the fact that we have all-night facilities, 24-hour supermarkets, and around-the-clock television can erode our ability to have a beneficial and sufficient time of sleep. It may make us wonder whether we are actually sleeping less these days, but it more likely points to the fact that we need to work harder at making the transition from waking life into sleeping life. Just as ancient cultures used to prepare people for death, so too we need to prepare ourselves for sleep..
In order to get the most benefit from sleep we can prepare ourselves beforehand by relaxing our mind and body. To jump into bed straight after a bloodcurdling movie on television is not the best preparation for a restful sleep! You are very likely to have your dreams taken up and distorted by the characters and scenes of that movie. To study up to the last few minutes before getting into bed is not good either, because your mind is still racing. You are then likely to wake with no more than a dream-jumbled version of whatever you were studying and precious little rest.
A large amount of our dreams can be taken up by the replaying and evaluation of the previous day’s experiences. So, we may wake after a long and disturbing dream about an incident that happened at work, or a difficulty experienced at some time during the day. Rather than waking up refreshed we wake with the sense of having been “haunted” by that event. What you dismissed as a molehill may even have taken on mountainous proportions during your time of sleep. Such a waste of your dreams and rest time can be avoided by simply assessing the events of the day before you go to sleep.
There is a biblical phrase that refers to this process: “Never let the sun go down on your anger.” And we can take this further: never go to sleep with any disturbance that has not been dealt with or put to rest during waking hours. If the day has brought thoughts or feelings that do not sit well with you then you need to evaluate them consciously and honestly. It is when we neglect such assessment that our dreams take on a “haunting” quality, and the rejuvenating, repairing and refreshing benefit of sleep is eroded.