The sleep series: Beautiful and ugly dreams

Have you ever had a dream so vivid, you woke up and believed it had actually happened in real life? A nightmare that woke you up at 3:00am and left you petrified and unable to get back to sleep?

What about an overwhelming sensation like you’re being weighed down, you’re being pushed into your bed, essentially frozen, but you think you are awake? 

Dreams are essentially stories that our mind creates. They can have such overwhelming and unpredictable power on our emotions, and can trigger happiness, sadness, or fright in us.

We often see people we know in our dreams, but sometimes we see faces we don’t recognise. Some interpret this as a message, whilst some say they’re faces of strangers we have seen.

Whilst we do not know who these people are, our subconscious manages to conjure scenarios in our head that might appear to be so far fetched to us. 

We usually dream during REM sleep, the period of time in which we are in our deepest state of sleep, this is when our brains are most active.

Some may wake up remembering what they had dreamt of the previous night, whilst others will have no recollection at all. According to some researchers, we can in fact have up to six dreams per night. 

Many individuals may have experienced lucid dreaming, like myself, which can truly be a beautiful moment. This usually occurs when individuals are in between their REM sleep stage and almost being awake.

Lucid dreamers have the ability to control their dreams, to write a script for their dreams, more or less. Lucid means comprehensible, meaning that one can recognise that they are having a dream, in real time.

From my own experiences with lucid dreaming, it usually occurs when I am having a nightmare, through the influence of my brain, and my subconscious thoughts, I am able to flip the narrative of my dream, from something disheartening to one more positive. 

“Empowered by the knowledge that the world they are experiencing is a creation of their own imagination, lucid dreamers can consciously influence the outcome of their dreams,” said Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold in their book Exploring the world of Lucid Dreaming.

“They can create and transform objects, people, situations, worlds, even themselves. By the standards of the familiar world of physical and social reality, they can do the impossible’”

An experience I will never forget was a moment in which I had woken up to notifications from a friend. This was in response to a text message I don’t remember sending her at 3:00am.

The text she had received from me had said “Oh my, I’m having a lucid dream”. Of course I don’t remember sending that text, so I was a little confused.

Nightmares often leave us feeling a bit heavy, slightly down in our moods. We may have seen something scary, or sad, perhaps leaving us feeling slightly traumatised in a way. There are many scientific reasons for nightmares, according to the NHS they often occur due to existing mental health conditions, stress or trauma. 

The most terrifying thing to happen during my sleep has to be sleep paralysis. Some have been lucky to never experience this, but for many like me it may just be a common occurrence. Sleep paralysis, as the name states, is the sensation of being paralysed.

Unable to move from your bed, being weighed down. I have had sleep paralysis multiple times in my life, I try to shout and scream to wake myself up as I see what appears to be a dark figure peering over my bed, but I’m muted.

Doctors say that it is caused by our brains being active, whilst we are in sleep mode. Sleep paralysis is said to be linked with issues such as insomnia, anxiety, PTSD, panic disorder and having a disrupted sleep pattern. 

Speaking to a few friends, I noticed they all had similar experiences. Yassine said that he was so frightened he thought he was dying, “it was like I was being choked, and I could see a black figure by my window”. 

I remember experiencing it for the first time, I would manage to wake myself up, but only for a few seconds as I would feel so tired, I’d instantly go back to sleep. Only for it to happen all over again. When I would finally be fully conscious, I’d be left with a throbbing headache.

Then I’d be left petrified, and would run into my parents room to wake my mum up, she’d tell me to drink some water and pray. So I did, and would drift back into a peaceful rest. 

This lead me to wonder, is there a deeper meaning into our dreams? My mother, a Christian, like many others, believes the experience of sleep paralysis, is a demon entering our subconscious. 

I spoke to Synchar, who has suffered from sleep paralysis ever since she was a child. Synchar is a part of a spiritual tribe. Her experience with sleep paralysis became so terrifying that for the eight years that she was in boarding school she only mustered up the courage to sleep alone for one year.

Like myself, Synchar prays whenever she is awoken from this paralysing terror. She told me that this all began after a school trip to a forest, one with various spirits.

Like many cultures, there are sacred ideologies in which they follow. In this case, she was told that you are unable to speak negatively about these forests, during the trip she had said something along the lines of “It’s spooky”, and she believes this is the reason why she has sleep paralysis till this day. 

When all is said and done, whatever our beliefs may be, we can all agree that our brains are so powerful. 

 

Part One of this series can be found here.


Featured image by Kat Jayne via Pexels CC.
Edited by Sophie Victoria Brown and Natalia Zmarzlik.

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