Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sleep paralysis - things falling on you in dreams

Yes I know other people's dreams are boring; if you find that to be the case don't continue I'm not forcing you to read this. Normally I don't recall my dreams. All the ones I remember are narratives and the ones I glimpse before they fade seem to be the same; however there are two recurring ones that I can always remember the cause to the effect they have on me and both are very similar. The preamble often differs, but the conclusion is roughly the same. I'll illustrate with the one from last night.

I woke up on my side; possibly due to the pain under my ribs from the dodgem car. I was facing the wall which has book shelves on it, but I wasn't looking at the books I was looking through them at a series of sharp 'lights' arranged in dots and vertical dashes dot, dash, dash, dash, dot, dash, dot. I knew that the vertical ones represented failures and that meant the spiders were out of those tubes. They would now be crawling through my ceiling, out through some hole and abseiling down towards my head. I didn't know when the failure had occurred, they may have just started, they may be on their way, or they may be coming down right now! At which point I sat up to wave my hands above my head and OW! The pain in my side kicks me to full conciousness.

The other one isn't spiders (or sometimes insects) but shadows. They're moving. They've got in and and are crawling across the top of wardrobe; then into the gaps between my books and just ready to pounce. So I grab the torch that I keep there for this very occasion and try to chase them out of their hiding spaces.

With or without a torch the results follow in a set form. Rarest of all I pull my duvet over my head and seal myself in. Rarer I manage to get all the way out of bed either swinging the torch around or keeping my eyes on the ceiling. Normally I just sit up and scoot down to the other end of the bed.

I wake up fully at this point mutter a swear and get back to bed.

So what's the cause? If I headed down the Jungian or Freudian path I'd be talking about deep-seated insecurities, repressed stuff, paranoia etc. Or I could go down the more scientific route and talk about things we know the body does. Guess which I'm taking.

When we fall into a deep sleep our brain 'turns off' our bodies. Acting out what we do in dreams isn't likely to be conducive to our health (or others). Those for whom this doesn't always take are often referred to as somnambulists or quite literally sleep-walkers. When we wake-up our brains 'wake-up' our bodies, however for some this doesn't always kick in at the same time. Their brains are awake, but the body isn't and this is called sleep paralysis.

So far so what. Well as I've said many, many times we're pattern seekers, cause/effectors. For those suffering from sleep paralysis they can't move so there must be a cause. Generally something stopping them from getting up sitting on them or holding them down; it's thought this is the origin of the succubus. Sometimes however time can get out of whack and it's not something holding us down now, it's something that's about to hold us down.

Why shadows, why spiders or insects? Looking at those who talk about these types of dreams they seem to be the most commonest things. Again I could delve into the deep subconscious or I could just point out that we all have these things in common and that the majority of people have at least some minor trepidation about these things. I'd bet that someone who keeps spiders would never dream of spiders dropping on them, because they have no fear of them.

So there we go no need to talk about woo-woo dream interpretation it's simple biology... Okay there must be a cause for sleep paralysis (and somnambulism) though. Well you might be someone for whom these chemical interactions just don't work well; medication can interfere; hell even types of food; or simply stress.

I've no idea which it is for me. If it's stress then I must be under a whole heap of it without realising it; I doubt it's food as I've given up eating before sleep (hmm might be lack of food then). I'm not taking any medication so I'm left with simple biology; or one minor possibility*

Sadly if that's the case this is one of the few instances where understanding the cause does nothing to alleviate the effect. I'm still going to wake up, I'm still going to avoid the shadows/spiders and I'm still going to curse before going back to sleep.

*If you sleep directly under something, a light fitting, a picture etc. waking up with such dreams may not be a sign of sleep paralysis, but possibly the subconscious' quite reasonable worry that something might fall on you, because there's something there that might fall on you. The closest thing to me are a two sets of book shelves and they're far enough away that I don't think it's them.