Saturday, 27 June 2009

Unnerving Dream



-Those with the greatest awareness have the greatest nightmares.
Mahatma Ghandi

The worst types of dreams are sometimes the ones that have a backdrop of regular life- with something normal happening, after which a terrible scenario ensues. Upon waking, you realise these things could and do happen.

I think it’s a weakness in my character that I don’t like not understanding things. I hate the feeling that something is beyond my knowledge and I have to deal with situations blindly- like waking up with an image of something violent and worrying (and possible) in my head. I had to continue my dream research. Why do we dream? And, king of clich├ęs- what do they mean?

One recent dream revolved around picking up an ex-girlfriend in a dusty, gravel car park, and showing off in front of her and her mates by cranking full lock on and wheel-spinning, sending the car round like a lasso. It’s a childish, chavvish display that I would never attempt in reality.

The ex loved it though, and ran up to the car, squealing with amazement. She was apparently not the best at judging moving objects, however, and I felt a clunk as my back wheels ran her down. I’d gone full circle again, slamming the Skoda estate over her body a second time ‘til I registered- with a gut-wrenching feeling of doom- how moronic I had been, and the immense consequence of my stupidity.

The one redeeming feature about terrible dreams is the get-out-of-jail-free card that you instantly pull upon waking. I’ve lost count of the amount of horrific, twisted scenarios- far more violent and brutal than this one- that I’ve imagined when dreaming. But however bad these dreams could be, I’ve woken up and thought, thank fuck. That’s a weight off my mind! For the moment, at least- I am a free and innocent man.

For the record, I’m still on good terms with said ex girlfriend. This makes her suicide-by-Matt bid all the more weird… Why dream of doing something that you’d never want to happen?

Before going to bed and having this dream, I had indulged in an only-slightly-oversized glass of Highland Park Twelve-year-old. Of all the whiskies I’ve tried (and there have been a few) this hits the spot more than any other. Not in terms of sending me to sleep (although it does), but Goddamn, it’s a fine whisky. “The greatest all rounder in the world of malt whisky”, says The Malt Whisky Companion. I’m prepared to agree.

I was wondering whether there might be a connection between alcohol and dreams- and whether food affects these scenarios.

Medscape.com, a medical-orientated news site, shed light on how alcohol reduces healthy sleep time.

“Withdrawal symptoms (of healthy sleep) may include shallow sleep and multiple awakenings, REM rebound associated with nightmares or vivid dreams, sweating, and general activation. Therefore, although alcohol may be effective in sleep induction, it impairs sleep during the second half of the night and can lead to a reduction in overall sleep time.”

I had the feeling that alcohol might give me weird dreams. I was wrong. Everybody has weird dreams, regardless of whether or not they drink. In fact, alcohol delays the brain from entering the second, deeper phase of sleep- when REM occurs. So it seems that alcohol prevents you from dreaming in the way you should. It’s a wonder I remembered running my ex down at all.

I ploughed on with dream research. Macalester College, in Minnesota, has a detailed psychology website describing the effects of sleep depravation on rats.

“Ultimately, REM deprivation in rats is fatal. One of the main symptoms during this time was hypothermia, despite observable effects to increase heat production (e.g., by eating). This has led to the hypothesis that the function of REM is to prevent heat loss.”

-macalester.edu

So. This is the missing conclusive point to my previous dream blog, “Weird Dream”, in which I tried to nail down what dreams are in the first place. Dreams are the byproduct of your brain keeping your body warm while you sleep.

Doctors sometimes advise people that- even though while you are asleep your body congeals food into fat- getting more sleep can usually be an effective factor in the task of losing weight.

Also, we can conclude that the doctor in Fight Club was wrong. You can die from insomnia. It would take a very long time, we can presume, although psychologytoday.com reports that there are “no recorded human fatalities.”

“The most notable finding from REM deprivation studies in humans is that the number of attempts that a person makes to go into REM while asleep greatly increases. After the deprivation is complete, the deprived person will experience a REM rebound, which is a significant increase in the percentage of time spent in REM over normal levels. This REM rebound can last for several nights.”

-Macalaster.edu

So dreams act like sleep itself- if you deprive yourself of it, you’ll have REM rebound: a backlog of dreaming to experience later.

“Often nightmares are caused by stress, traumatic experiences, emotional difficulties, drugs or medication, or illness. However, some people have frequent nightmares that seem unrelated to their waking lives. Recent studies suggest that these people tend to be more open, sensitive, trusting, and emotional than average.”

- asdreams.org, the International Association for the Study of Dreams

Well. As a blogger I think I’ve spent enough time discussing my weaknesses. But this seems to correlate, to a degree. I have actually had less warped, disturbed dreams than I used to, which I guess is a good sign.

So it’s off to the land of nod again soon, after I’ve finished this glass of Glayva liqueur. I’ll tell you what happens. Night, all.

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