Vivid Dreams
June 16, 2004 5:28 AM   Subscribe

I've always been plagued with extremely vivid dreams, and incredibly efficient dream recall. I say plagued because I don't like these abilities. Is there anything one can do to lessen the vividity of dreams, or keep from remembering them upon awakening? [a little more inside]

This morning, I woke up from a dream where the second American Civil War is caused by spineless Senators arming themselves on the floor of the Senate, the Justice League, my stepmother, and my high school gym teacher's repressed homosexuality (just that, my gym teacher himself was nowhere to be seen). But everything was all right at the end because we made a movie about it and then my 'camera' pulls back to reveal that the whole thing was a movie I'd been watching in a theater.

This is just one example of my overactive imagination manifesting itself during what's supposed to be a time for rest'n'recharge. I wake from these dreams with a "WTF?" attitude that lingers with me all day. This has been something I've dealt with all my life, but have never been able to lessen/suppress entirely (with one exception), and I dearly wish to, as I rarely feel rested after sleep.

Now, there's a certain illicit plant that I know stops my dream recall 100%. However, I'm investigating more by-the-book solutions.
posted by WolfDaddy to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The solution is simple.

1. Find yourself a terrible job and work with terrible people doing menial tasks.

2. Become completely jaded with life.

I swear this does work. I used to have really vivid dreams (which I miss having), then I had to go get a job and the dreams stopped.

Frankly, I think you're really lucky to have vivid dreams.
posted by timyang at 6:02 AM on June 16, 2004

in my experience, the ingestion of antidepressants largely inhibits one's ability to remember dreams.

on preview i must agree with timyang's conclusion.
posted by mookieproof at 6:03 AM on June 16, 2004

It's not a bad thing--when you wake up, you have to start thinking ahead to the day coming, or about what things you need to do that day, etc, so it pushes the dream stuff out of the front of your mind. I think you're thinking you're not refreshed, but you really are. Don't dwell on the dream stuff.
posted by amberglow at 6:15 AM on June 16, 2004

I too have vivid dreams, and can usually remember parts of at least 2 or 3 in the morning. The later I go to sleep seems to affect my ability to remember them when I wake, the earlier I go to bed the harder it being. Maybe this is because I get longer a sleeptime, and simply forget more before I wake?

1. Find yourself a terrible job and work with terrible people doing menial tasks.

A friend of mine consistantly dreams of normal days at work. He then wakes up and goes to work. Be careful what you wish for :)
posted by toby\flat2 at 6:17 AM on June 16, 2004

"the ingestion of antidepressants largely inhibits one's ability to remember dreams."

My experience has been exactly the opposite - I tend to have more vivid dreams and better recall. For the most part, I rather enjoy this, but there are times when it's a bit disconcerting.

But to answer the question: My understanding is that vivid dreams generally happen during periods of light sleep. Perhaps you should look for answers at a sleep clinic? If you can manage to get yourself into a deeper state of unconsciousness while you're asleep, that may solve the problem.
posted by aladfar at 6:43 AM on June 16, 2004

Great Nexus, is that you?
posted by yerfatma at 6:46 AM on June 16, 2004

It could just be an odd slice of pizza you ate the night before, I suppose, but it sounds as if you're eating odd pizza every night - so to speak. Several others who have given answers here have a deadly point - you can dull your waking consciousness and intelligence, yes, and through a wide variety of methods (legal and otherewise). Then the dreams will diminish, I'm sure.

I'd suggest a crash course in reading Charles Tart, Stan Grof, and selections from the reading list I'm going to post in the blue in about ten minutes. I think there's quite a lot going on in your dreams and that you might be wiser to try and reach towards some understanding of the messages your subconscious mind is sending to the conscious "you" .
posted by troutfishing at 6:48 AM on June 16, 2004

Ooh, I'm going to be watching this thread. I have strange and vivid dreams as well. I wouldn't mind them, except that a fairly high percentage of them are nightmares, such as one in which an ex was ripping out my tongue, or another in which I was being used as a human sacrifice by a bunch of Druids.

I had heard that the cure for this was to not eat late at night, so I made a rule not to eat after 7 p.m. and kept it for several months, but it didn't help.
posted by orange swan at 6:55 AM on June 16, 2004

You didn't use the word, but would you characterize these vivid dreams as nightmares? If so, there are many established treatments, including simple things like keeping a dream journal, or maybe some prescribed medications.
posted by profwhat at 6:56 AM on June 16, 2004

Response by poster: profwhat, no I rarely, if ever, suffer true nightmares, though some of the dreams I had post-9/11 and during the anthrax shit were pretty hairy. I also take antidepressants and they don't seem to affect dream recall or vividity either way for me. In fact most drugs, licit and ill, seem to have little impact on their content and clarity upon waking. I can remember dreams I had when I was 4, fercryinoutloud.

They're just frickin' weird. I used to find them highly entertaining. As I get older, though ... not so much.

troutfishing, I anticipate your post with interest. I used to journal my dreams on E2 but that just made them more frequent and more weird. I've also found diet to be a minimal factor. Would that these spectres be only a blot of mustard.

posted by WolfDaddy at 7:09 AM on June 16, 2004

You might consider investigating a sleep clinic in your area. Many, instead of using drugs, use light therapy- basically, while you are awake, they show you a pattern of lights that's to be associated with a dream. Then, they have you sleep and wait until you hit REM, and flash the lights again. After a few repetitions, your bring will provide the flashes in your dreams, which will help you reocgnize that it's a dream and move you into a lucid dream phase where you can either wake up or redirect the dream. It sounds a little new agey, I know, but it was extraordinarily effective for my brother, who suffered from night terrors.
posted by headspace at 7:44 AM on June 16, 2004

WolfDaddy, I am with you on this one. The earliest dream I remember is from when I was two, and there are usually two or three days a week in which I have a dream so vivid that I can't shake it off of me for an entire day.

To contradict someone else's statement, having a boring and menial job seems to exacerbate this - when I am happily engaged in my daylight hours, I sleep better and even though I recall my dreams, they don't stick to me and change my mood.
posted by annathea at 8:05 AM on June 16, 2004

I find that if I take the reefer before I go to bed I do not dream. I sleep incredibly soundly and just don't dream. When I stop the reefer I find that I immediately start dreaming again. And they are more intense for a while. Give it a shot.
posted by trbrts at 8:19 AM on June 16, 2004

For me, the vividness of my dreams is directly related to my sleep position. If I sleep on my back, I have crazy messed up dreams that stick with me for ages. Any other sleep position and I forget the dreams pretty quickly.
posted by Sangre Azul at 8:30 AM on June 16, 2004

I have the same problem as WolfDaddy. I've learned to view the crazy dreams more as a curiosity than a feeling I can't shake. I write them down, pore over them, study them, and wonder how my brain took to thinking that way.

I was woken by my alarm this morning right in the middle of my winning a televised gameshow, hosted by my late aunt, in which I won the grand prize by being measurably taller than a short Asian man. Should I let this freak me out all day? It's odd, quirky, a mystery of my subconsious mind. The dreams veer into creepy spots at times, but I don't view those as an omen or a foreboding menace. I recommend maintaining your dream journal (privately, if you like), and more importantly...reviewing it once in a while, to keep perspective. Not everybody dreams of meadows and sunshine.

The reefer does stop the madness, but do you really want to hit the bong before bed every night?
posted by Succa at 8:52 AM on June 16, 2004

I have been plagued by bizarre and vivid nightmares for as long as I can remember. Keeping a consistent dream journal, and working with the dream material on a regular basis, are the only things that have ever helped.
posted by Tholian at 10:02 AM on June 16, 2004

Try working out/exercising before you go to bed. I've noticed that when I go to sleep physically tired, I dream less (or, remember dreams less.) I have no real knowledge about this, but I'd assume it's because my body is gets into a deeper sleep, and faster, when it's tired.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:20 AM on June 16, 2004

I’m surprised no one has brought up Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lathe of Heaven yet. It’s one of the most impressive books I read as a teenager.
posted by Termite at 12:13 PM on June 16, 2004

I used to have terrible nightmares.
then I joined MetaFilter and I was cured
posted by matteo at 1:17 PM on June 16, 2004

Like you, I have an exceptionally prolific, vivid, and imaginative dream life. I need to get to a sleep clinic, and so possibly may you. It took me forever to realize this—which is really stupid because my sleep patterns have always been obviously abnormal—but my sleep patterns are very abnormal and my unusual dream life is related to this. Specifically, I have little to no REM latency—I go into REM (dream) sleep almost the moment I fall asleep, and, apparently, throughout my sleep period. This is very abnormal; a normal person spends about 20% of their time in REM sleep. I have pretty severe chronic, unipolar depression and, apparently, there's some correlation between that and reduced REM latency and some other sleep related things (including larger than normal amounts of sleeping, which also applies to me).

My dreams don't disturb me as yours disturb you—they're astonishingly creatively productive and coherent. I've written decent music in my dreams, composed short lines of pretty good poetry, experienced very detailed and viable film plots (and shots!). It's interesting. I don't know what's going on—my dream life is unlike anyone else's I've ever known.

But it certainly isn't normal, and it very likely may not represent anything good.

If you have the insurance coverage for it, a sleep clinic might be a very good idea. Much better than blindly self-medicating.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:29 PM on June 16, 2004

Response by poster: EB, I'm the same way re: REM latency. I seem to be in REM almost the entire sleep period--which is often broken into two hour intervals as I wake from dreams.

I've always heard things like you're not supposed to be able to read in dreams, etc, and if you *are* you're one step away from lucid dreaming. While it's apparently possible to consciously control the dream sequence in this state--something I can do in the sense that I can always will myself awake if I want, but little else--I'm not sure I want to go that far.

Sleep clinic. Aside from the ganj, that seems to be the remedy, so I'll give it a shot.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:01 PM on June 16, 2004

Try listening to some binaural beats.
posted by Gyan at 4:29 PM on June 16, 2004

I'd like something that would stop me having nightmares that are basically rehashed b-grade movie scripts. It's just embarrassing.
posted by arha at 7:41 PM on June 16, 2004

Wolfdaddy and EB, I'm not an expert on brain phases, but I do believe it's purt nigh impossible to be in REM for most or all of your sleep. Remember that you can be in REM for five minutes and awaken with a dream that seemed to span hours.

As to reading, everybody can "read" in dreams the first time - that is, you can see some text and know what it says as part of the dream narrative. What you're apparently thinking about is using reading as a state test or reality test: If you read some text of more than a couple words, then focus on something else, then read it - truly read it, letter-by-letter, word-by-word - again, it will have changed somehow 99% of the time for 99% of the people. That said, given your apparently odd physiology, maybe that won't be true for you.

Regardless, I would recommend (as usual) trying lucidity, which you don't need to go to a sleep lab to achieve (though it can accelerate the process). There are plenty of good threads in the blue with plenty of links on getting to that point. Once there, and here's where you'll think I'm getting new-agey, I'd recommend asking your fellow dream characters for advice on your problem. E.g. in your Civil War dream, if you're there with the Senators, forget your disapproval of their arming themselves and, remembering that you're dreaming, ask them why your dreams are so vivid that they disturb your other life. Or ask your stepmother. Etc. Even if they don't "solve" the problem, I have no doubt that what they say will give you something new and different to ponder, and may point the way toward resolving what is apparently for you an imbalance between your waking self and your unconscious.

Personally, I love vivid dreams (and hate the fact that they're easily blocked by the method many here have alluded to), and would like to recommend, cavalierly, that you simply replace the "WTF?" attitude with a "Hey, cool!" attitude, but I know that's easier said than done.
posted by soyjoy at 9:32 AM on June 18, 2004

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