Why haven't I ever had a good dream?
March 29, 2005 1:20 PM   Subscribe

In my entire life, I have never had a good dream (that I can remember). What can I do about this? Every morning I awake feeling like I've just endured an extremely intense work out. These nightmares terrify me and are incredibly vivid. It feels like I am dreaming all night long, without ascending and descending through all of the stages of sleep. Is it possible to get too much REM sleep? If so, what causes this? Any sort of suggestion, outside of recommending therapy (done that), would be helpful.

P.S. I grind my teeth at night, which might be relevant. And this has been occurring since childhood. Can anyone recommend a decent anxiety medication?
posted by crapulent to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I read a great book on lucid dreaming years ago. Found it on a bookshelf at a vacation rental in Sea Ranch. Read it twice and have forgotten the title, but it gave a number of instructions that really did seem to work; they allowed you to steer the content of your dreams and have more control over your own actions and the evolution of the "plot" of your dreams. I've used the techniques many times and they really do seem to work well; in addition to increasing control within the dream, they also have the (unintended?) side effect of making the dreams far easier to remember, which may be some side effect of introducing the parts of the brain that control conscious action. I'm sorry that I can't remember the tile, but I am sure there are a number of books on the subject that might be able to help you.
posted by luriete at 1:40 PM on March 29, 2005

absolutely what luriete said
posted by bonaldi at 1:43 PM on March 29, 2005

See my guide (self-link) on E2 for more on that; a Mefi thread (there are others).

Also, related.
posted by abcde at 2:43 PM on March 29, 2005

Oh, and if the teeth grinding is a continuing problem consider getting a mouth guard from your dentist, otherwise you're slowly wearing away your teeth.
posted by abcde at 2:45 PM on March 29, 2005

And you should have a sleep lab if you think this might be caused by an abnormal sleep pattern (particularly if, for instance, no matter when you wake up at night you always seem to have just been dreaming). I don't know what the treatment would be but it certainly wouldn't hurt to know.
posted by abcde at 2:59 PM on March 29, 2005

Beware Lucid dreaming. There's a reason you dream about the things you do.
Dream Diaries, although quite a hippy-dippy new-age concept are an excellent tool for helping you remember what you're dreaming about. Even if you remember little (feelings, colours), write it down on a daily basis. People who try this show a marked improvement in dream recall over quite a short period of time (weeks).
posted by seanyboy at 3:23 PM on March 29, 2005

It's said that rooibos tea, drunk before bedtime, can induce good dreams. Worth a try.
posted by jennyjenny at 3:40 PM on March 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

The mouth guard is very good advice - I don't have one but I know several people who do, and it helps them tremendously. more information.

It's said that rooibos tea, drunk before bedtime, can induce good dreams.

Do you know where there's information about this? I tried rooibos once (thinking it was just another kind of tea) and had a fairly unsettling night (not at all good dreams) - I chalked it up to coincidence (and never drank rooibos again), but I've been kind of curious if the tea was the cause. The dreams had a mildly hallucinogenic bad trip feel to them - like fever dreams.
posted by advil at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2005

Regarding rooibos: honestly, it's vaguely remembered thirdhand information, and I can't find anything on google to support it. Sorry I can't be of more help than that. But it's a low-risk, low-cost easy thingy to try.

Have you tried a regular aerobic exercise regimen (in the morning, or three to five hours before bedtime -- no later)? If I were having this problem, I'd visit a nutritionist and get a regular exercise program together and see if any of that helped. I know from personal experience that often problems that seem like "brain stuff" can be dealt with by dealing with them as if they were "body stuff."
posted by jennyjenny at 4:36 PM on March 29, 2005

I have the same problem. I also get really bad TMJ from grinding my teeth and have a mouthgard/retainer. Problem is, I constantly have dreams about my teeth falling out or my retainer getting stuck or not being able to talk, etc.
posted by radioamy at 4:41 PM on March 29, 2005

Response by poster: Yes, radioamy! That sounds exactly like me. I already have a bite splint, but it doesn't seem to be helping. I regularly have dreams in which my teeth fall out, especially the front two. I also have this other dream in which I have two sets of eyebrows. I know that dreams regarding teeth falling out are fairly common, though. Do I just need a good depression/anxiety medication or what? What the hell is wrong with me?
posted by crapulent at 5:55 PM on March 29, 2005

Grinding your teeth also increases the size and changes shape of your jaw dramatically. My dentist has told me how she can look at anyone and tell if they are a grinder/clencher (she says Maria Shriver is a huge clencher).

I have to say that I have been having this dream problem lately, dreaming vivdly about violent deaths about every 2 weeks, that I can remember. I have used the techniques of being able to take actions in my dreams but frankly, it's too frightening. I just want them to stop.

As for anxiety meds, there are a lot of different treatments for anxiety from anti-anxiety meds to anti-convulsants. I take the latter at night and I think still may grind my teeth a bit. Anyone used meds specifically to treat dreams?

More hippy-dippy: yoga is really balancing.
posted by scazza at 6:05 PM on March 29, 2005

seanyboy: The other perspective is that in a dream you're the protagonist and have the ability to guide it anyway, being lucid just gives you more information. You're not altering the course of your dream any more than you do normally by choosing your actions. Plus, in this case having only nightmares is likely not optimally fulfilling whatever mental organizing role dreams have anyway.
posted by abcde at 6:39 PM on March 29, 2005

I get that sort of dreams when I've taken too much 5-htp or Lexapro, which raise serotonin levels. Jaw clenching/teeth grinding is also a side-effect of Lexapro and appears to be related to serotonin somehow.

I don't know if that's helpful or not. Maybe it will point you toward a solution.
posted by belladonna at 7:02 PM on March 29, 2005

Cannabis did a great deal to reduce dreams that woke me too much. Over time I no longer have the nightmares, but the dreams are more vivid w/o my nightly dose.

It pays to go to bed and get up on a very regular schedule. Sleep is a rhythm thing.
posted by Goofyy at 1:12 AM on March 30, 2005

I had the same problem for years, and to a lesser extent I still do. I can only make a few observations based on my own experience. Firstly, I'm 45 now, and I get far fewer of the heart-pounding, wake-up-screaming nightmares than I used to. I actually think simple ageing may have taken the edges off the problem, but I can't be absolutely sure about that, of course. So... maybe something good about getting old. Not much use to you right now, perhaps...

I do still dream vividly, and a lot, every night, but the reduction in the out-and-out nightmares makes this more bearable. I did find that when I took vigorous exercise in the evenings (I used to be a keen squash player) I tended to sleep better generally, and with less intense dreams. That might be worth a shot. Also, some people swear that not eating for several hours before sleep helps. I could never manage that because an evening dinner is my main, and favourite meal of the day but it might work for you.

Good luck with it and would you do me a favour? Let us know if you find something that works!
posted by Decani at 5:56 AM on March 30, 2005

Have you ever been in therapy? If you have constant nightmares and grind your teeth, it sounds as if you are suffering from some leftover psychological pain/confusion/difficulty. I would address the cause rather than the symptoms here; you can get a mouth guard and take drugs which make you forget your dreams, but the underlying trouble will probably still poke through here and there unless or until you address it.

I don't mean to be presumptuous; it could just be a diet thing, or whatever, and I know a lot of people grind their teeth at night. Still, I don't think that means it's without meaning. I used to grind my teeth, and have a lot of angry/depressive moments, and honestly, although various things helped here and there, what has really made the difference is figuring out what I want to do with my life, and setting out to do it. Don't discount the possibility that your dreams and unconscious bodily actions are expressions of true feelings, rather than just annoyances you need to somehow get rid of.
posted by mdn at 6:17 AM on March 30, 2005

oh geez, just noticed you said you'd tried that!
sorry. out of it today. though I'd still reflect on the state of things regardless of professional involvement etc...
posted by mdn at 6:18 AM on March 30, 2005

I've tried the dream control stuff and it does work.

Also, you should try recounting your dreams to yourself. Keep a diary. I think just thinking about the dreams and what's going on will help.
posted by xammerboy at 11:35 AM on March 30, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you all for your advice. I really do appreciate it. This was my first post/question on MetaFilter, thus I was unnecessarily nervous. I'll keep you updated if I am miraculously cured.
posted by crapulent at 12:33 PM on March 30, 2005

I have to agree with what JennyJenny said. I have noticed over the years that I get very vivid dreams and have trouble sleeping if I go off my exercise regime for more than a week or so. As soon as I start up again, the dreams and sleep problems subside. I also find that it has to be an aerobic type of exercise. I find that when I get the blood a pumpin at least 3 times per week, it makes a world of difference, and I sleep like a baby. Forget to exercise over the holidays, or any other time, and like clockwork about a week and a half later the vivid dreams start again. I am a big believer in the body-Mind connection thing.
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 12:25 PM on March 31, 2005

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