Thursday, April 29, 2010

perchance to dream

I confess....I'm not sure if I think this is interesting, cool, or really freaky.

As a teen, I'd occasionally take a brief nap on the couch before dinner. That was the only time I'd have one particular "nightmare." In it, I'd hear voices or "feel" people over my sleeping body but I'd be entirely unable to wake up. I thought of it as a dream-within-a-dream where I was trying to "wake up" to the first-layer of dream. Once I did fully wake-up (and sometimes even during them), I'd know the voices weren't real. These ONLY happened during naps on the couch.

And then they came back. I'd had them a few times in recent years, always in very odd circumstances, like when I slept on the floor in the living room because I felt a bit ill and somehow that was more comfortable. They were rare so I didn't think much of them. But in the past three or four months, I've gotten them a least once or twice a week, often a couple times in the same night (I'd wake up in between and they'd come back). They are simply terrifying...I'd be scared to go back to sleep. They were apparently short (judging by the clock when I had multiple in a row) but felt like an eternity.

I grew curious about what it "meant." I'm not sure I really believe in dream analysis, but I was curious so, like any good modern American, I googled. Lots of clicking led to a semi-informed conclusion that it is actually a sleep disorder called sleep paralysis. This apparently happens when your brain and body fail to wake up at the same time (like they normally would) so that your body is still frozen (as it normally is in during healthy REM sleep, so you don't act out your dreams) but your mind is waking are semi-awake but unable to move. Some people experience vague auditory "hallucinations" with this or a feeling that someone else is present. Interesting side note -- some think that this condition accounts for claims of alien-abduction-type experiences.

I'm always a bit hesitant to self-diagnose online but the things I read really described me spot on (well, not the alien part!). It also apparently happens most often when people sleep on their back. I tend to be a side sleeper but slept on my back for my teenage couch naps and have been sleeping on my back lately because of the pain. I also have other sleep issues (insomnia and I kick in my does my dad, as did his dad, and I have a vague memory of my half-sister kicking me while sleeping on a car trip) and it is apparently commonly linked with other problems.

It is kind of nice to have an explanation. The "nightmares" are scary as hell and always felt very lonely. Other people who've had them had some tips on waking yourself up that I'll try to remember for the next time. But it is also kind of mind and body aren't playing well together (not that this is new).

Yeah, this is probably not interesting to anyone but me. Oh well. The knife in my back was particularly bad this morning and I took the very last of my pain medicine (with no real plan for how I'll deal with running out)...they make me ramble on more than usual...and make me not necessarily worry if no one else finds it nearly as interesting as I do.

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