I’m talking to a client. Nothing unusual, nothing out of place. I have no reason to be afraid of this person. But I am. I can hear my own heart beating like an external drum. I become aware that we are all alone, he and I. This is when he circles my neck with his hands and begins to choke me. I try to scream but no sound comes out. My hands refuse to scratch or struggle, my feet won’t kick. Nobody is going to rescue me.
We’ve all experienced that moment in a dream: the one where you really need to act. You need to run, you need to scream, you need to fight, but your dream body refuses to respond. It’s terrifying.
Interestingly enough, this dream paralysis appears to be part of a protective feature put in place when we are in REM sleep. The large muscle groups are inactivated and taken off line, probably to prevent us from blundering around like bats in daylight, bashing ourselves against walls and furniture. Also – can you imagine the scenario where your dream self is able to fight back – where there is a satisfactory swinging of fists and feet – what might be the effect on the person who is lying innocently beside you?
What about sleepwalking? Sleepwalking and talking happens during deep sleep in Non-REM stages, not REM sleep, and is another story for another day.
I once woke up while my body was still paralyzed, which was more frightening than any nightmare I’ve ever had. On some level my conscious mind knew what was going on, and still I was terrified. Awake. Aware that I was lying in my bed. Unable to open my eyes or move my arms or legs or do anything other than breathe. This went on long enough for my active writer brain to come up with all sorts of scenarios of life long paralysis before I was able to get my body moving again.
What about you? I have an almost morbid curiosity about other people’s dreams – nightmares included.
My research into dreams and dreaming carried on this week, interspersed with investigations into the myths and legends around the Fountain of Youth, Holy Wells, and the Elixir of Life.
I’m contemplating a plot point for WAKEWORLD which would involve my heroine, and possibly everybody else, being barred from DREAMWORLD for a period of time. So my question of the week was “what would happen if we stopped dreaming?”
In my quest for knowledge on this subject I took a look at the basic science. (By which I mean anything easily accessible on the internet with the assistance of Google. No textbooks were opened in the pursuit of this knowledge, nor were any scientific papers and studies consulted. I did, however, avoid Wikipedia and Wikihow.)
I found out that dreams appear to be instrumental in balancing moods, learning new tasks, and storing memories. People deprived of REM sleep (even if they still get Non-REM sleep) have difficulty with learning new skills, although they retain any abilities they previously possessed. Their memories and mood are affected. One study indicates that insufficient REM sleep may have to do with migraine headaches. Rats deprived of REM sleep got sick and developed sores on their bodies. (I know – ick, right?)
Apparently we do dream during non-REM as well as REM sleep, but these dreams differ in quality and intensity and seem to serve a different purpose. EEGs show brain activity much like that of waking during the REM phase of sleep.
Normally we all spend a couple of hours or so in REM sleep every night, occurring in cycles interspersed with Non-REM sleep. If REM sleep is consistently interrupted, these cycles will occur closer and closer together and last longer, in an apparent attempt to make up the difference. This signals their importance to the system, although again nobody seems to be entirely certain exactly why REM is so important.
I’m not sure how this will all fit into the novel at this point, but that is part of the fun.
Anybody here ever suffered REM deprivation? Personal experiences are so much more interesting than Science.
Have you ever dreamed something before it happened?
There are a lot of opinions out there on precognitive dreams. Some say this type of dream is impossible and therefore doesn’t happen, that those who claim to have had these dreams are lying or deluded or confused. Or, more kindly, have simply experienced a coincidence.
Some argue that the subconscious, always processing data we are not consciously aware of, is able to seem to predict certain events. Nothing woo-woo about this – it’s rather like a computer processing data and coming to a logical conclusion.
Jung believed in a collective unconscious beyond the private subconscious – that there are layers of mythology and memory common to all, and that the dream state taps into these.
And there are full on, hard core dream believers, who say that we can foresee certain elements of the future through dreams. This is the oldest of the beliefs, going back as far as recorded memory: Oracles. Prophets. Shamans.
I’ve had experiences just strange enough to make me a believer. Twice, I’ve met people in dreams days or hours before meeting them in the flesh. Often I’ll find myself in the middle of some simple, ordinary act during the day, and as my hand reaches out to grab a paper, as I open a particular computer file, as I pick up the phone, I recognize the fact that I dreamed this action the night before. Unfortunately, my dream recall is less than stellar and I don’t usually remember more than this one freeze frame moment.
The closest I’ve come to a full-on precognitive dream happened a couple of years back. I had dreamed that I was driving my car on a winter road, downhill and around a corner. The car went out of control on the ice, off the road and airborne in a heartbeat. I woke up before hitting bottom. The dream scared me. I drove cautiously the next day. And then I found myself driving downhill and around a corner on a winter road. In that moment I knew that this was the corner from my dream. It was a road I had driven many times before, so no surprises about it showing up in dream. Still, with the dream memory fresh in my mind I doubled my caution, slowed my speed, came around the corner and hit ice.
My slower speed saved me. And it was the dream that slowed me down.
I’m fascinated by dreams – both what causes them, and how they impact human behavior. This fascination had a lot to do with the writing of BETWEEN, and I’m continuing to delve into my own dream experiences and those of others as I’m getting ready to write the sequel.
So what do you think? Do you believe in dreams coming true? Have you ever had a precognitive dream of your own? I would love to hear your beliefs and experiences.