I’ve mentioned that my Garmin Fenix sports watch tracks my sleep as well as the miles I swim, ride and run. Every morning I can wake to see how much Deep Sleep, Light Sleep, and REM Sleep I’ve managed overnight. The little charts it provides are fascinating. Along with nightly sleep charts, there are weekly summaries.
These are fascinating in showing how the mind works while it is ostensibly at rest.
Those dark blue segments at the bottom are Deep Sleep. For me they tend to happen early in the night.
Then I have a shot of light sleep followed by REM, the period of sleep during which the mind opens up to dreams.
I dream quite vividly and often remember significant aspects of those dreams. Some dreams are repetitive. I have ‘related’ dreams from month to month or year to year. Psychology Today explains that recurring dreams are the mind’s way of working out a problem:
“In general, recurring dreams indicate the presence of an unresolved and persistent conflict in an individual’s life, and the theme or Central Image of the dream provides a stage for this conflict to play out. The cessation of a recurrent dream may indicate that the conflict has been successfully resolved.”
One of my recurrent dreams has a fascinating element. I’m back living in one of the homes I once owned, but there is a secret passageway underground that leads to an entire wing of the house out back. This set of rooms is often in a shambles, dusty and disorderly. But there’s some potentially interesting stuff out there if I sift through it.
Processing grief through dreams
I’ve also had dreams in which my late wife is alive again. In one of those dreams she died and then came back to life again. She’d been taken to the morgue but rose up and headed back out into the world again.
By then––in compressed dream fashion–– I’d started a new life and did not know how to deal with her presence. I’d meet her at dances and such. In a similar dream she’s dating another man in my stead. There’s always a feeling of obligation and unresolved issues with these dreams. I’ve concluded that these ‘dream feelings’ are my mind’s way of reminding me to keep my wife’s memory alive with my children. There is some guilt associated with that, because losing a spouse is impactful far beyond what one mind can adequately process. There are always second-guesses about what’s right or wrong to do in life beyond that relationship. I’m sure the same feelings apply to divorce or other losses in life.
The most vivid dream I’ve ever had centered around a visit to a farm in the hills of Decorah, Iowa. I stole past the farmer’s property to avoid the large dog that patrolled the pastures. The woods at the far end opened up to a massive valley with steep cliffs and a mysterious air. I loved that place so much that I never wanted to leave.
Yet when I came back, I met up with the farmer. His animals were wary of me like any farm animal would be, but I was allowed to roam the barns with all their ancient and good-smelling ardor. The imagery in that dream was so strong that I woke up the next day insisting that it must be a real place. But it wasn’t. It was just a place my mind wanted to be real.
The experience of that dream was so intense that it made me feel like there were two worlds within my head. A dichotomy. Or schizophrenia.
These days, when I look at the maps of REM sleep each night on the dream charts, it fascinates me to think that those are the periods when my mind is engaged in free association. It goes other places. Does other things. With or without me, it goes there.
There are no limits to dreams. No rules to abide. That can be frightening as well as thrilling. Nightmares are awful.
The dream chart at right shows the purple REM periods slightly growing as the night went on. I recall those long dreams as pleasant. One can be grateful for that.
I’ve been known to fly in dreams. The site DreamMoods describes some aspects of dream flying:
Flying represents control:
If you are flying with ease and are enjoying the scene and landscape below, then it suggests that you are in charge and on top of a situation. You have risen above something. Flying dreams and the ability to control your flight is representative of your own personal sense of power.
Flying represents a new perspective:
When you are flying, you have the ability to look down and get a wider perspective of things. As a result, your flying dream is telling you to look at the broader picture. From your higher vantage point, you can gain a new and different perspective on things.
I’ve had dreams where an implement was used to fly, such as a disc under my feet. Other times I can think myself up into the air. No one else around me can control their body in the air like that. I concentrate and begin to rise into the air. It’s a wonderful feeling, miraculous even, flying around above everyone else. Yet in the dream, a part of me sometimes worries that I’ll lose the ability by thinking too much about the ability to fly. That about describes my whole life.
Sex and dreams
I’ve also heard that dreaming about flying is the sleeping mind’s way to think about sex. Certainly there have been a few outright sexual dreams over the years. That’s actually really fun. Waking up from one of those dreams is a wild sensation. Sometimes we dream about having sex with people we know, even our co-workers. When that happens, work the next day feels rather awkward.
The famous Wet Dream is the climax of sexual dreaming. I’m glad to say that’s only happened once in my life. I woke up so shocked and surprised I just started laughing. What else can you do in that circumstance?
A marathon dream
My favorite dream of all time was the night in which I dreamed that I was running a marathon. From the starting gun I felt great. The sensation of running was easy and fluid. Unlike many dreams over the years in which running was difficult or impossible, I ran and ran until the finish line was crossed in 2:22. I’d run a personal best in my dreams!
I was elated when I woke up the next morning. Then I realized I was “only dreaming” and lay there disappointed for a moment. But the joy of that dream experience was so full and real I was grateful that my mind had opened up like that and allowed me to run my best.
In real life, I’ve had a few experiences like that when everything comes together. Those are moments when life itself feels like a dream. It can’t happen every day, but perhaps that’s for the best.
The dreams we have should never be so common they aren’t special anymore.