Tell me you don't dream like this

This post is more than 2 years old.

So I don't typically get too personal on this blog (outside of my Star Wars and video game obsession), but I had to share this. About once a month or so I have what I call a "stress-mare." These aren't nightmares in the typical sense, but a session of what feels like 100% pure stress. I typically wake up from these dreams feeling like I've been through battle. It's almost worse than a traditional nightmare as there never seems to be a climax of any sort. It's pure "lead up", like a scene in a horror film that you know is going to lead to a brutal death.

Last night's dream was pretty bad - and weird (hence the blog post). There was some kind of escape of a wild animal. The creature was like a velociraptor. Our sized - quick - brutal - etc. My family and I had gone to a family member's house to hide out, but it was pretty calm at first. No real panic at all with the people there. As the dream went on though it got progressively worse. I remember running around the house trying to find the most secure location - checking every window - looking at the ducts as a weak point - etc. And oh yeah - my kids were there too. There wasn't any real violence at all. I do remember my dog getting killed, but it seemed to happen "off camera". As the dream was ending though things were about to get real bad. I woke up feeling completely numb - not physically - just emotionally.

Ugh. I can say that I know where the dream came from though. I read a collection of "end of the world" type stories about a year ago, and there was a story just like that. It wasn't a particularly good or scary story, but it must have been clunking around in my gray matter.

Nice. What makes this even better is that I've had about four weeks or so of insomnia. I found my 'cure' two nights ago. For some reason, a heavy blanket helps me get to sleep (even though its hot as hell). Frankly though if I keep having dreams like this I'll switch back to not sleeping.

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Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Phillip Senn posted on 8/10/2009 at 4:56 PM

Lost World was on TV last night.
There's a scene in there where it shows the dinosaur, then a dog barking, the horrified family, then the dinosaur holding up an empty doghouse by a leash.

Comment 2 by Ben Nadel posted on 8/10/2009 at 5:30 PM

I've had number of these types of dreams lately. I think I'm wicked stressed for my CFUnited presentation and it's manifesting in my sleep. I had one dream where I was trapped in a bathroom with a rat that was trying to attack me. Another where I was in a plane that did an emergency landing on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere. Another where I got caught in the middle of what appeared to be some genocide-based gun fight. And then, over the weekend, I had a dream that someone totally ramsacked my hotel room at CFUnited and broke my eye-glasses in half and I started freaking out that I wasn't going to be able to see any of the presentations. You can be sure I double-checked that I had packed my eye glasses :)

Comment 3 by Luke posted on 8/10/2009 at 5:35 PM

@Phillip - i wonder if Ray somehow tuned in to the thoughts (experiences?!) of all those watching the Lost World!

i recall once doing an experiment with a friend saying we'd try to force ourselves to dream about the same place and meet up there have a conversation and try to recall it independently the next day. unfortunately i dreamt it and he didn't - one to try again sometime!

@Ray i know the type of dream, it somehow saps all your energy and you wake up worn-out and sometimes in a heavy sweat. at least they're relatively rare!

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/10/2009 at 5:42 PM

@Luke: I first heard about 'lucid dreaming' as a young boy. I'm not even going to say what I tried to force my dreams too.

Comment 5 by Luke posted on 8/10/2009 at 5:54 PM

@Ray hahah, yep - some things are just toooooooo personal :-)

i did once have what i thought might be an 'astral projection' it happened right at the moment between sleep and wake in the early hours. i'd once read it's apparently possible to move away from your body provided you're aware of this state you're in... (all hocus pocus hippy rubbish but i'll always have an interest in the unexplained nevertheless)... but after feeling like i had drifted away from my body (felt like pulling something out of thick glue and got about a metre away) i got really scared and whizzed back down only to wake up panicking and greatly relieved to be 'home'.

lol, writing it down here sounds insane. im extremely sceptical of such things but after that i did understand how maybe a dream within a dream could lead you to think such a thing was happening... or maybe it _was_ happening! arghhh!

Comment 6 by Nick posted on 8/10/2009 at 6:08 PM

@Ben
I had this dream where this guy clocked me for wearing an I Heart Coldfusion shirt while playing pool.... oh wait. Never mind.

Comment 7 by Ben Nadel posted on 8/10/2009 at 6:11 PM

@Nick,

Ha ha ha ha.

Comment 8 by Aegis posted on 8/10/2009 at 6:46 PM

A quick way to cool off with a heavy blanket on you is to simply let your feet poke through the end. Like your fingers, there are a large collection of sensors at your extremities, and covering them will make you feel MUCH warmer than if you don't. Try it, and you'll probably feel instantly a couple degrees cooler.

Comment 9 by Daniel Budde posted on 8/10/2009 at 6:50 PM

Interesting topic. From around 13 yrs old till around 20 I was actually pretty good at lucid dreaming. I would start my dreams, see something in them that made absolutely no sense and would then tell myself "oh, I'm dreaming". It was a very cool experience to have this self revelation and then be able to control the tempo and direction of dreams. This tended to only work for me in nightmares or very obsurd dreams. If the dream was any bit normal, I would never realize it.

Then at 20, I got married and the situation completely changed. Rather than having totally unreal dreams, my dreams always became exactly what I was worried about. Nothing like having a double dose of being worried about money, college exams, marriage and car troubles during the waking and sleeping hours.

I honestly can't remember the last time I had a good dream. They are either unmemorable or really bad. Boy I need a beer. Dangit, I don't drink.

Comment 10 by Howard Fore posted on 8/10/2009 at 6:53 PM

Ray, do you remember the name of the story collection? I have an affinity for that kind of fiction. It helps that I don't often (read, very rarely) remember my dreams.

Comment 11 by Dan G. Switzer, II posted on 8/10/2009 at 6:59 PM

I have these dreams occassionally where I'm working--and I hate 'em. I wake up feeling like I just worked 12 hours and now I've actually got to go work. Makes for a long day.

Comment 12 by Charlie Griefer posted on 8/10/2009 at 8:22 PM

The part about running around the house trying to find the most secure location reminded me of this.

http://xkcd.com/87/

Comment 13 by Daniel Budde posted on 8/10/2009 at 8:24 PM

Nice.

Comment 14 by Jason Fisher posted on 8/10/2009 at 10:25 PM

@Ray,

It's a common therapy for kids with Sensory Integration issues (all the way up the spectrum to Autism) to have them sleep with weighted blankets (search Google for weighted+blanket+sensory). My younger son has low-level several sensory issues and we've just ordered one that we hope that'll help him with sleepness nights ...

Comment 15 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/10/2009 at 10:51 PM

My daughter has sensory issues so I'm aware of it - just didn't place it in context with myself. Interesting point there. It's freaky though - this just cropped up a few weeks ago. Melatonin usually works but it's been failing me.

@HF: Sorry - I can't seem to find it. It was on my wishlist. You know what - I may have it downstairs. I don't think I finished it.

Comment 16 by Jason Fisher posted on 8/10/2009 at 10:56 PM

Yeah, after a sleepless night just a few nights ago, my wife got up in the morning saying, "Dang, I should have ordered one of those blankets for myself ... maybe that's my problem!" Till then we hadn't thought about her occasional insomnia in the same category ... still don't know if it is, but it was an interesting thought!

Comment 17 by jeffc posted on 8/10/2009 at 10:58 PM

@Charlie, that's hilarious, because it made me think of this...posted just last night.

http://xkcd.com/621/

Makes me wonder if Ray speaks French.

Comment 18 by Raymond Camden posted on 8/10/2009 at 11:01 PM

Took French in high school and college - do I remember much now? Nope.

Oh just read the comic. What are you saying jeffc. ;)

Comment 19 by Jason Troy posted on 8/11/2009 at 12:30 AM

@Ray - Don't dwell on it or you can expect that the parts that were off-camera will be on-camera next time. ;) Kidding, sorry. What's fun is when you realize its a dream and you can take the velociraptor and shrink it into a lizard and put it in the aquarium to play with your gecko.
@Daniel - Interestingly, for most of my life I thought everyone was able to remember their dreams and control them. I also used to wake up after a dream "knowing" something. It wasn't part of the dream per se, but I'd have this new found knowledge right after waking up. That information never has stuck with me, its gone 5 minutes after waking up if I don't write it down. (Many useful lines of code have been lost due to this) Years later, I started studying the human mind and what we think we know about it - I was surprised that most cannot remember or control their dreams. It was that point that the lucid dreams stopped for a few years.
My take from that and my reading is that there is a self-hypnosis going on here. If you tell yourself as your start falling asleep that you WILL wake up at a certain time, you usually will. Its the same thing with dreams, the level of control or awareness you get will be a function of what you expect will happen, but - it takes practice.

Comment 20 by Mikey posted on 8/12/2009 at 1:26 AM

I have stress dreams like that every night. Is that a problem?

Seriously though, I am told I'm pretty low-key and unstressed; I just came that way "out of the box". I think of those crazy dreams as a way to safely let go of stress. I watch them like a movie, some are pretty crazy.