Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I'm still having a few nightmares and some very vivid ordinary dreams which I remember but are too hard to articulate. I came across some information in a New Scientist article on Near Death Experience.

....."REM Intrusion" is a glitch in the brain's circuitry that, in times of extreme stress, may flip it into a mixed state of awareness where it is both in REM sleep and partially awake at the same time. "The concept that our brain is either 100 per cent awake or 100 per cent in REM sleep is absolutely erroneous," says Mark Mahowald, a neurologist at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Centre in Minneapolis. "We can have pieces of one state intruding into another, and that's when things get interesting."

But REM intrusion can affect anyone, and frequently does. Recent estimates suggest that up to 40 per cent of people have experienced "sleep paralysis", a form of REM intrusion in which you awaken with part of your brain still in REM sleep and your body paralysed. Often the result is a terrifying feeling of being unable to move, accompanied by visual or auditory hallucinations and pressure on the paralysis is a hallmark of REM and REM Intrusion is usually a frightening experience.

REM is Rapid Eye Movement sleep where the activity of the brain's neurons is similar to that of waking hours. It is physiologically different from the other phases of sleep.

Extreme stress, had plenty of that lately. Total paralysis, had that in every nightmare but in every case I've been able to overcome it with great difficulty. No visual hallucinations but auditory ones, check. I've only had one with the pressure on the chest and that was really frightening but reading this article has put everything in its place. The paralysis nightmare has been accompanied by extreme fear as I try to move to dial the phone for help or get to the door to lock it. The auditory hallucinations involved someone circling the house, crashing through bushes and branches and the back door being repeatedly banged open. I had forgotten about the chest pressure until I read this and I had to go back quite a few months to where I had recorded that nightmare.

As soon as I wake up properly the fear goes, I'm just left with the memory, enough to write it down clearly. The reason for this clarity is the combination of the wakefulness and dreaming peculiar to REM Intrusion. I've had stress before without these nightmares so I'm blaming the cat for sleeping on the bed and giving me that extra nudge towards wakefulness which in turn starts the REM Intrusion. It doesn't help to wake up and find two big gold eyes peering into mine and the word "food" being beamed towards my brain.

My dreams are totally different. They're full of colour and detail. I'm also 6 inches taller, 40kgs lighter and 20 years younger and the men are so gorgeous they have to be hallucinations.


Anonymous said...

I have been in similar situations; I experienced halucinations and surreal waking moments. My ability to handle stress is less than yours; you are a real trooper, JT.
Thanks for writing about this and bringing it to my attention.
You might try earplugs for the cat problem (no, wise-acre, not earplugs for the cat). The earplugs help me because they do stop the purring sound which usually wakes me up prematurely. Then since I am used to them, I can use them comfortably when I am out on the road.

Link said...

I've had the odd 'paralysis' dream, but not with accompanying pressure on my chest. Some involved auditory hallucinations -sound of heels coming down the garden path, the door knocking and giggling (?) and a remarkable one, wherein an old codger emerged from my wardrobe with a terry toweling hat on. I knew the instant I saw him that something was not quite right. Nobody gets into my bedroom via the wardrobe and old men in terry toweling hats are generally not all that dangerous. He said to me, "Can you help my daughter", who I could hear, but not see, sitting in the alcove off the bedroom cutting up bits of paper with scissors. I was a little afraid, because I couldn't move a muscle and I knew I should at the least be a little disconcerted with having a strange, albeit fairly safe looking man, with an innocent request, standing haplessly in my bedroom. I had to wrench my head forcefully to the side to 'snap' out of it and woke up in my room, of course, sans the old bloke in the hat. I puzzled for days who the daughter could be, but neve really figured it out.

JahTeh said...

Strange how these kinds of dreams really stick in the memory. I have a habit of writing down vivid ones as soon as I wake up but going back to read them months later, some come back more clearly than others.

I'm not handling the stress all that well Janet, my donut habit is out of control. There's a bakery on the way to Mum's and that's where I prop, cappuccino and fresh donut/donuts, depending on the mood of the day. I justify this because it's a 3khm walk and the energy should take care of the icing (frosting to you) on top.

R.H. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
phil said...

I get the paralysed ones, usualyy trying to call out or make a phone call to save myself. Mrs VVB has had to wake me a few times because I'm making an "I'm being strangled" noise. Haven't had one for a while now, though, now I come to think of it. And I once had a ripper where I was alone in a factory/warehouse being stalked by two cats that could read my thoughts. It took me a while in the nightmare before I figured that out. I woke up just before they were about to jump me and rip my throat out.

JahTeh said...

Those paralysed ones wouldn't be after a tasting of VVB's yeasty brews, would they Phil?

You break my heart RH, you really do.

The one I remember most from childhood was walking along a footpath trying to dodge the big holes opening up. Sometimes I'd get through the whole dream without any holes.

R.H. said...

One day up in Sydney, to earn my keep, I offered my social worker niece that little anecdote. It's worth about three nights board I'd reckon, and as many days being driven around. Meanwhile I'm shy to tell her anything big, she just could never afford it.

phil said...

Paralysis, mind reading cats and yeast. How obvious - I should have made the connection. Well it's back to lemonade for me (yeah, as if...)