Dreams vs. Reality
June 12, 2006 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Are your dreams better than your waking life?

Lately, my dreams have been much more exciting, vivid & wonderful than my waking life, which has become rather routine. It's come to the point that, upon awakening, I find myself disappointed at the seemingly banal life I lead. Should I be concerned about this? It doesn't feel like depression (believe me, I know what that's like). Instead, I would classify it as a symptom of some sort of ennui. Does this mean I need to make my reality more dream-like? Has anyone else had experiences with this? If so, did it bother you? How did you deal with it? Thanks in advance for your insight...
posted by Lillitatiana to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There was a period in my life when I was really stressed out from work (one FT job and a second PT job) that lasted about three months.

I would relish sleep, but I loved my dreams more and deeply regretted having to wake up.

I don't have such vivid dreams any longer and miss them greatly, like lost friends I'll never see again.

If you like writing, consider keeping a small notebook and pen close to your bedside, and mark down parts of your best dreams after waking, before they evaporate.

Your writing will feed your mind and spirit at times in your life when things really get banal and boring.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:57 AM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I suggest you consider this a sort of carrot on a stick. Your life is currently rather mundane, but the part of you that does not accept this as a true reflection of yourself and your identity is acting out, entertaining and amusing itself, and basically acting as a beacon to draw you toward the more vivid and wonderful life you feel you deserve.

People will shoot this down and merely speculate whether you should attribute them to medication you're taking (or medication you perhaps ought to be taking, or any number of environmental factors. I, however, place value in dreams, especially when they present themselves as an inherently valuable part of one's life, as yours seem to have.

Enjoy them while you have them. Write about them. Perhaps let them inspire you artistically somehow. As for making reality more dreamlike, it might be fun for you to experiment with this, and see whether it makes your waking life a little more interesting.

We spend less than half our life awake, and to find yourself so actively conscious during the sleeping half can be nourishing in and of itself.
posted by hermitosis at 9:03 AM on June 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

I agree with hermitosis (except for the less than half our lives awake thing -- isn't it more like two-thirds?). And I would say that maybe your dreams are trying to help you figure out how to make your life more exciting or fulfilling. You don't have to make your life more dreamlike, really, as much as figure out why your dreams are so appealing -- are there emotions or qualities you're getting while asleep that you wish you could have while awake?
posted by occhiblu at 9:20 AM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think that interesting is just a point of view.

You may be bored with your life, but that doesn't mean its boring.

Take greater interest in what you do every day.

Notice more and more of the smaller and smaller details of the experience... from textures to underlying meanings, from the endless varieties of weather to the endless varieties of people passing on a street at an exact moment of the day...

Your dreams aren't telling you something... they are trying to wake you up.
posted by ewkpates at 9:44 AM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Of course dreams can be better than waking life -- in dreams, you can do all kinds of impossible things without having to worry about the consequences.

If you can make your life better, go for it, of course. But don't worry because you're having great dreams.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:45 AM on June 12, 2006

Mr. Six, if you want to have vivid dreams, you may want to consider taking a B6 vitamin supplement. I was told by a doctor to take them at one point and he warned me that my dreams could become very vivid.

IANAD, so I don't know what precautions you should take with B6...I know too much B vitamins isn't particularly good for you.

However, whenever I took B6 vitamins I had wickedly strong dreams.

posted by milarepa at 10:35 AM on June 12, 2006

Do you have a comfortable bed? I've noticed that the more comfortable the bed, the less vivid the dreams.
posted by delmoi at 10:43 AM on June 12, 2006

I'm currently where you are -- I'm getting off a medication and having insanely vivid dreams, and when I took a lot of Tylenol PM I got some awesome ones, too. Recently I've been dreaming that I'm in video games, which is so rad.

But I like to sleep, so dreams are like icing on the cake for me.

Bits of them have ended up in my writing. In fact, just the other morning I woke up with a plot for a novel that I'd dreamed.
posted by sugarfish at 10:43 AM on June 12, 2006

Dreams are generally much better, I hardly ever fly in waking life. On the other, hand I've never encountered a live Tyrannosaurus or fallen down an elevator shaft in waking life, so you have to take the good with the bad.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy the novel House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe, which touches on this topic. (Not my favorite of his books, but it is a good read.)
posted by Pattie at 12:09 PM on June 12, 2006

I'm on the opposite side of this. 90% of my dreams are completely unpleasant. I sleep ok, and there are the 10% of dreams that are interesting, although not necessarily "better" than my regular life.

Generally I have recurrent dreams of bare feet and filthy restrooms, complete disorganization, dog feces in places it shouldn't be, malfunctioning elevators, collapsing stairwells, etc. Mostly unpleasant all the time. They are not nightmares so much, in that I don't have night terrors often (maybe once a year) or wake up particularly disturbed or wake up frightened or confuse the dream for reality. It's just... unpleasant.

So, you at least have one counter-example. :)
posted by smallerdemon at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2006

Oh hell no. My waking life is generally hilarious and fun. My dream world is bizarre, which can be good but can also veer off in a frustrating direction. Just last night, for instance, I was trying to drive a panel van with no steering wheel. Instead you were supposed to use a little knob like the ones on gas stoves. It was almost impossible to gauge corners correctly with that thing. I was so relieved to get up and take my mom to the airport in a regular car.
posted by tangerine at 1:02 PM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dreams are often better than my waking hours. I love to sleep; dreams beat many books, much television, and most movies. Some people think sleeping is wasted time. This is false. Enjoy your dreams.
posted by amber_dale at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2006

My dreams, those that I remember, usually have an element of horror, typically around the theme of permanent disfigurement. My waking life isn't that great, but at least I still have my teeth, eyes and hands.
posted by SPrintF at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2006

So around October of last year I (long story short) made a major (albeit temporary, thank god) screwup in my life, which resulted in some psychiatric problems (again, long story). My real life was hell, but my dreams were amazing... very vivid, a lot of fun, and the coolest part was that they always seemed to include some sort of deep ethical dilemma. I had fun watching myself work out a solution to these complex problems. It always fascinated me to wonder where my motives to make these dream-decisions came from. As my real-life situation improved, however, these dreams slowly faded. I still get them occasionally, though, even though everything is pretty much back to normal.
posted by notswedish at 3:14 PM on June 12, 2006

I've had dreams in which I've experienced feelings of love, sorrow, joy and fear in much stronger ways than I've felt in real life.

I am sure I've felt love in dreams at a far stronger level than real life can provide. I don't know if that's good or sad, but the dreams actually made me a bit depressed for a couple of days. I've also had dreams with fear as a strong element, but they were almost enjoyable. Zombie apocalypse survival dreams where I woke up covered head to toe in gooseflesh, and my heart racing.

Oddly they were like a scary movie, I really enjoyed them.

I went through a period of dreams when I was in my early 20s when I looked forward to going to bed because the dreams were so good. Epic stories with plots, good cinematography and so on.

A memorable one was set on a space station which had built an interstellar craft to escape from earth's impending destruction. It ended with a shot from outside the craft as it accelerated away from earth, never to return. The moment it winked out of sight, I woke up.
posted by tomble at 4:48 PM on June 12, 2006

I meant to mention I've had funny dreams too, from which I have awoken laughing and filled with happiness. It's only happened a couple of times. The last time it happened, I did my best to remember what was so funny, and for about 10 minutes as I lay in bed it seemed genuinely hilarious. Once I was up and about it seemed like something of a `funniest home videos' level, and probably not even that interesting.

I think that when you're asleep the emotional parts of the brain can be tweaked in a way that you don't get in waking life without drugs.
posted by tomble at 4:53 PM on June 12, 2006

Uh.. not that I'm recommending drugs.
posted by tomble at 4:53 PM on June 12, 2006

You seem to be treating this situation as some kind of puzzle that needs an explanation or resolution, and I'm not sure how much useful help you should expect, but here goes nothing...

Your description is a bit vague. "Exciting", "vivid", "wonderful" are all suitable adjectives to use in describing dreams, but perhaps you should be asking yourself why these dreams are exciting, vivid and wonderful. What is it specifically about these dreams that you like? What points of departure from reality do you find the most stimulating?

I've been in a similar situation, and eventually came to the conclusion that I preferred my dream life to my waking life because, paradoxically, my dream life seemed more real. Things made sense there. My conscious life was filled with absurd situations that just seemed to multiply and multiply. My dreams contained the world as I felt it should be: alien, often unpleasant and frightening, but fascinating regardless.
posted by Ritchie at 8:42 PM on June 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dreams and my waking life vie for superiority.

I agree with amber_dale - just enjoy your dreams if you are lucky enough to have good ones. Too much reflection might alter their content??

I am currently sort of half-heartedly trying to train myself to have lucid dreams, since my dreams are often great fun and since I get to do things that are otherwise impossible.
posted by MisterMo at 10:04 PM on June 12, 2006

I don't remember if it was Sigmund Fraud (sic) that talked about dreams of a sort he called "wish fulfillment" or not, but someone did. I've had them, and they are indeed wonderful. And it has nothing to do with my quality of real life.

So your daily life is routine. That happens. Some consider this very fortunate. "May you live in interesting times" is a curse! Others find it painfully dull. It's both, of course. So you get some great dreams to keep you entertained.

The real problem is when you die in a dream, experience the afterlife, then get all bummed when you wake up and find yourself alive. That happened to me when I was 18. I wasn't well or happy or anything. I was a malnourished, homeless, vet. But that was a life time ago.
posted by Goofyy at 4:35 AM on June 14, 2006

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