Category Archives: health

A lot has been said and to be said about dreams

In my last blog, I spoke about my last summer’s travel experience.  Things are moving, however, I’m afraid I’ve nothing substantial to report yet.

What have you been dreaming?

It was a cold and rainy Monday; right after I got out of my residence, I realised I was underdressed but couldn’t go back because I was running late for work and didn’t want to miss my bus. I thought of buying a jumper, then again, didn’t manage to find time to do it. Tuesday was also cold and raining; my bus was late by 40 minutes; moreover, I had to walk for nearly two kilometres because there was no tram due to technical problems. When Wednesday came, I needed a shopping therapy and my purchases included polenta. I still felt the soreness of my legs on Thursday. On Friday at 7 AM, I was woken up by my husband’s hug and a narration of his dream. I giggled as I, too, had just dreamt. In my dream, it was raining hard and I was in an open market covered with plastics and parasols looking at clothes. I passed by a food stand of Italian products where it was selling the same polenta I bought on Tuesday.  Next to the Italian food stall was a table of jumpers. While browsing, I felt a hand on my shoulder; when I turned around, it was my husband. Why did I dream about things that really happened?

A fortnight ago, my Irish friend told me that she dreamt about having difficulty breathing. The day after that, she received worrying news about her long-time colleague’s ill health.

Dreams can be happy, funny, scary or sad. Nightmares, which are frightening dreams that awake us from sleep sweating, moaning or crying, are rare (statistics put it at around 5% only).

The BBC correspondent Sean Coughlan has reported research findings by the University of Geneva in Switzerland and the University of Wisconsin in the US that bad dreams improved the effectiveness of the brain in reacting to frightening experiences when awake and that dreams could be used as a form of therapy for anxiety disorders. (https://www.bbc.com/news/education-50563835 seen 30/11/19). On the other hand, “once a dream became a very upsetting nightmare the benefits were lost and instead it was likely to mean disrupted sleep and a ‘negative impact’ that continued after waking”.

Some dream experts reckon that our health, food, experience, activities and biological processes during sleep influence what we dream.  

My dream wasn’t lucid because I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was dreaming until I was awoken by a hug. Research studies have linked lucid dreaming to high levels of brain activity and increased busyness in the frontal lobe, which is involved with language, memory, and self-awareness.

Dr Michael J. Breus, a clinical psychologist and member of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, has stated that based on research, a significant percentage of people who appear in dreams are known to the dreamer (e.g. one study found more than 48% of dream characters were recognisable by name to dreamers). He further said that there is a body of study indicating that our waking life, which is beset by joy, success, grief, fear, loss, and emotional or physical pain, are replayed in dreams. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/sleep-newzzz/201501/why-we-dream-what-we-dream#targetText=Theories ).

My Aussie friend, like many people, are fascinated by interpreting dreams.  She has given a seminar on dreams and is currently writing a book about it. I didn’t have time to contact her before writing this article, but I’m interested to know about her findings because examining the content of dreams is one way to answer the most basic yet fundamental question, i.e. why do we dream?

How often do you dream? What do you dream about? Do you have theories on why you dream? Do animals dream?

Urban vs rural … even in chess

After 12 draws in classical games, Norwegian Magnus beat American Fabiano Caruana 3-0 in the rapid match in London two days ago (29/11/18) retaining his world chess champion title.

This year’s Moselle (France) Regional Chess Championship was held in Bliesbruck from November 1 to 4. Unexpectedly and unfortunately, only a quarter of the usual 80 chess enthusiasts turned up. I felt sorry for the organisers who evidently spent enormous time and resources to make it happen successfully. The main reason I heard was: Bliesbruck is out-of-the-way place. At least one person phoned and asked for the number of registered participants and when he found out that there were only 20, he said “There aren’t many, so I’m not going there”. If everyone had that mentality, there would not have been any tournament.

The newly renovated venue was spacious and well lit, has all the necessary amenities, and is situated in a green surrounding with ample playing fields for the children (e.g. football, basketball and tennis). The playing equipment and materials were comfortable, and everyone was made welcome. It’s an ideal place and condition for a chess competition. But, where were the other players?

Bliesbruck is a small French village located in the north-east of France, in the district of Sarreguemines which has a population of slightly over a thousand. For me, it was an opportunity to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There are more than 20 chess clubs in Moselle; if each club had sent at least 2 players, the organisers would not have been disappointed.

Nevertheless, it’s a memorable tournament because everyone was very friendly, and no one looked stressed and unhappy. The referee was always in a good mood mingling with the players before and after the games. The strong players, including last and this year’s champion Mr Stephane Vignale, were accessible to everyone and generous with their smiles and advice.

The mayor of Bliesbruck came thrice during the tournament. Thus, it was not surprising that his speech sounded sincere. He spoke about his admiration for chess and the people who can play chess, including his childhood friend and family members.

The Sarreguemine Chess Club President, Mrs Marie-Christine Schumucker, and her devoted friends prepared awesome home-made cakes and meals. The cocktail (fruit juice, wine, champagne, sandwiches, cold meat, etc.) after the ceremony was well presented and more than adequate.

There was a community atmosphere, generosity of spirit and friendship during the 4-day tournament.

Chess is the best sport to exercise our brain. Playing chess might not tone our muscles but has a lifelong mental health benefits. Relevant officials, clubs and their members, schools and community organisations should ensure that the playing of chess thrives not only in urban centres but in towns and villages.