Monday, June 16, 2008

The Chemistry of Dreams

Last night I had vivid and disturbing dreams. My sleep wasn't restful, and I woke up sore and tired and out of sorts. This makes me ornery and that is NOT the way to greet a Monday morning.

While I was lying in bed, trying to collect my wits, a random thought occurred to me, and I seized on it as a potential explanation for my disgruntlement.

Within hours of going to bed last night, I'd experienced terror. The gut clenching, acid producing, go screaming-into-the-night type terror. I wondered, "Did the terror produced the nightmares?"

Many years ago, I quit watching the news at night. It had been the habit for a long time to watch the 10 o'clock news, and then go to sleep. I often had violent, disturbing dreams and finally I insisted that habit stop, in hopes of improving my sleep. It worked, eventually. It was necessary to also weed out the more violent and frightening movies.
Animations - creatures 002
Over time, I came to have bad dreams only when I'd seen, heard, or read something disturbing, eaten really spicy food, and/or had too much alcohol.

Sleep has become one of my favorite parts of the day, because I usually have good dreams.

Then there was last night! It's been many years since I've felt that level of terror. It was self induced, but that didn't make it any less real. The fact that is WAS self induced made it hard to get rid of. I worked diligently on calming myself for 30 minutes. Techniques that normally work in minutes were still not producing satisfactory results. (I'd arrived home at 10pm to find three messages from my parents. They sounded serious and asked me to call them back. My mind immediately went to the time we were informing people of Brent's death. When we couldn't reach someone, we asked them to call us. No one wants to hear about the death of a loved one from an answering machine. Remembering who had "departed" in the past years without anyone calling me--cousins, uncles, old family friends--I decided that THIS phone call was about the immediate family. No! No! No! was all I could think. I tried to call mom and dad, but the line was busy. Exactly what happened when Brent died. The phone was endlessly busy as the news was spread and people called to offer condolences. I tried their number every few minutes for 30 minutes. Meanwhile I was mentally preparing myself for devastating news.) Finally I took my courage in my hands and called my sister. Within seconds her cheerful voice dispelled my terror and we went on to have a conversation punctuated with laughter. I was in a upbeat mood when I hung up.

Is there a connection between our emotional experience and our dreams? It seems logical to me, and you can be sure I'll be testing this theory. I love my peaceful dreams!

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