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Charlie Morley4 min

The Best Sleep Medicine: Five Sleep Trends for 2024

With increasingly more people prioritising rest, we’re seeing a shift in the way the population values sleep. It seems as though the message has been received and sleep is starting to be taken more seriously by our culture in the West. From developing mindful sleep routines to incorporating manageable changes such as micro-naps, as we head into spring, here are some predictions on sleep trends from best-selling author and sleep and dream expert, Charlie Morley.

1. Shut your mouth

Charlie Morley is an advocate of sleeping with your mouth closed. Why? He believes breathing through your mouth is bad for you. There is growing evidence to suggest that the epidemic of sleep problems facing the West may be directly linked to this fact. This is because how we breathe while awake dictates how we breathe while we sleep. Charlie said, Breathing through your nose, however, is really good for you. Our nose not only filters the air we breathe in, but also heats or cools and humidifies it in the nasal cavity (which is actually greater in volume than our mouth cavity, amazingly), making it easier for our lungs to absorb. Fascinatingly, nasal breathing actually increases our oxygen intake too. Apparently, mouth breathing also makes us less intelligent. A 2019 Japanese study found that rats that had their nostrils plugged and were forced to breathe through their mouths developed fewer brain cells and were so cognitively impaired that they took double the time to find cheese in a maze.

2. Nightmares are the new sweet dreams

Charlie reframes nightmares as being simply a type of dream that is shouting. Nightmares are there to help us in life. Charlie said, The science is clear: most of the time, nightmares are good for our mental health. Charlie believes that more people are increasingly starting to wake up to this fact and 2024 might be the year that this finally happens. He added, In fact, nightmares help us heal, they update our evolutionary survival mechanisms, and they draw our attention to emotional wounds that we may be blindsided by while awake. Nightmares don’t mean to hurt us; they mean to grab our attention. If we want to reduce the frequency of our nightmares, we need to do everything we can to tell our unconscious mind, ‘Okay, okay! I’m listening. No need to shout!’ Reframing our nightmares in this way may start to lead to a cultural shift where we start to honour the way we dream. This can be done by writing our nightmares down, drawing pictures of them or discussing them with a therapist or trusted friend. Essentially, we want to do everything we can to show the unconscious mind that we hear it loud and clear. Essentially, if we are willing to face rather than reject our nightmares, we can foster a shift of perspective that tells them: ‘I hear you. I understand that you’re an expression of my own mind that is shouting for attention. And upon receiving that message, the dreaming mind won’t feel the need to shout so loudly in future. This new perspective may spill over into our waking life, too, and we may start to view nightmarish situations with new eyes and a new appreciation of the potential for healing that they offer.

3. Lucid dreaming for mental health

This summer the journal Traumatology published the results of a ground-breaking peer reviewed scientific study in which 85% of participants experienced a remarkable decrease in PTSD Symptoms by using lucid dreaming practices to become conscious within their dreams and transform their nightmares. Commenting on the study, Charlie said, The results of the study were highly significant with the average PTSD score actually dropping below the PTSD threshold by the end of the week-long study. In fact, by the end of the sixth day of the study over 85% of the participants were no longer classified as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (using the self-report PTSD Checklist for DSM-5). Lead scientist of the study, molecular biologist Dr Garret Yount, from the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) in California said: These results are truly remarkable and highly significant. Immediately following the study, the average PTSD score dropped well below the PTSD symptom threshold and stayed this way four weeks later. What’s next? Following compelling studies such as these, Charlie is hopeful that more people will begin to recognise the potential of lucid dreaming as a way to support the healing of trauma and other challenging life experiences.

4. Swapping naps for yoga nidra

Yes, naps are great for us. But in 2024, we might start to see more people cotton on to the fact that instead of traditional naps, hypnagogic mindfulness and Yoga nidra are also great alternatives. These two approaches are very similar and can be likened to the traditional ‘body scan’ found in mindfulness meditation. Hypnogogic mindfulness and Yoga nidra are both great ways to recharge our batteries and rest deeply without actually sleeping.

5. Coherent breathing

These days, the benefits of breathwork are well documented. We know that the brain has the lungs on speed dial. The reason why changing the way you breathe can have such an impact on your physiology is because the brain fast tracks messages from the lungs above all others. Charlie said, One of the best ways to do that is a technique called coherent breathing which can be practised by simply counting the length of your breaths. It can be practised with your eyes open or closed, as a formal meditation practice or informally wherever you are: sitting at your desk, on your morning commute or taking a walk in the park. Evidence shows that coherent breathing significantly improves the symptoms of anxiety disorders, PTSD, trauma, stress-related disorders, inflammation, depression and, of course, troubled sleep. One of the most remarkable benefits is that it may have a similarly detoxifying effect on the brain as deep sleep. This is due to the increase in blood flow that it creates. In fact, coherent breathing might act as a waking-state method of supplementing the neurological benefits of deep sleep that so many insomniacs are missing out on. Who knows, perhaps 2024 will see coherent breathing as the new ‘4-7-8 Breathing’ or ‘Lion’s Breath’?

Charlie Morley

Charlie Morley is a bestselling Hay House author of four ground-breaking books on lucid dreaming, sleep & mindfulness. For the past 15 years he’s been running immersive sleep and dream retreats across the globe and he’s presented his work at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities as well as the Ministry of Defence.