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Dreams

May 25th, 2022

One of the things I've been thinking a lot about recently is how dreams work.

Since nationals for mock trial, which happened early in April, my sleep has been very wrong. I have a few theories about what's causing it, and it's getting better, but basically I've been waking up at like 5:30 every morning, tossing and turning for 30 minutes, then going back to bed for another hour and a half. Then I wake up again, and even though I'm tired I can't go back to sleep so I just get up and do something.

And what's noticeable is that when I wake up at 5:30, I'm always coming out of a vivid dream. My second sleep almost always involves one as well. Which is funny, because normally I don't notice dreaming at all. I'd remember having a dream maybe once a month at best, and otherwise I just vaguely had a sense they were happening. Now, though, I'm coming out of sleep and the first thing I'm thinking is "what was that dream about just now?" Because it's like the dream started my train of thought, and even though I transition from asleep to awake the train of thought keeps going.

Isn't that wild? That sensation is simultaneously the most incredible and uncomfortable thing I experience in my own head. The sensation of not having full control of your consciousness is really unique. And if anyone is reading this, I'm curious as to whether my experience with dreams is at all similar to yours. Do you ever feel kind of uncomfortable waking up and realizing the first thought in your head was planted there by a dream you were just having?

But part of why I'm trying to lean into the fact that my sleep is messed up and my dreams are a little intrusive stems from a very cool article I read a year ago:

"Dreams...act as therapy, helping us process stressful events like those of the past year so we can recall them without reliving the fraught emotions that were involved, said Dr. Walker. Some studies have found that experiencing more intense and emotional dreams during traumatic events can help protect people from depression. “Dreaming acts like a nocturnal soothing balm,” said Dr. Walker. 'It takes sharp edges off the painful sting of difficult emotional experiences so they don’t feel as painful anymore. You’ll still have memories of the emotional event. But it’s no longer emotional itself because REM sleep has come along and stripped the bitter emotional rind from the informational memory orange, as it were.'"

I'm a very neurotic person and part of this past year has been learning to worry less and avoid meaningless turbulence. Even if it can be annoying to wake up at weird times, I love the idea that my head is cleaning itself, going to work while I'm sleeping to allow me to be happier when I wake up.

That's pretty awesome.