I'm dead-dog tired -- in my dreams.
April 9, 2008 12:25 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes I get utterly, mind-numbingly sleepy and exhausted ... in my dreams. Whats going on?

I've asked around and so far I seem to be the only person who experiences exhaustion in his dreams. It goes something like this: About once or twice a week I'll be having a normal dream (.i.e, I'm a naked astronaut piloting a chicken to Mars with Abraham Lincoln as my co-pilot, etc.) but suddenly, maybe 2/3 of the way through the dream, I'll be overcome with total exhaustion within the dream itself. At that point, I'll usually stop what I'm doing and try to find some place to "sleep" (ironically enough) within my dream. I just wont have enough energy for the dream to continue. I can't stress enough that when I feel this way, the urge to "sleep" within my dreams is absolutely overpowering. I also wake up tired and exhausted when I have these little episodes.

I'm not sure if I should be concerned about this, but it seems a little disturbing to me that I should get exhausted at, ostensibly, the very moment that my body and mind are supposed to be recharging. It's also a little psychologically disturbing when my dreams get interrupted by this "Meta-Narcolepsy" (a phrase I coined) -- it makes me feel as if my brain isn't working quite right -- especially since this happens fairly often.

Does anyone else have any suggestions on what this might be, insight on how to avoid it, advice on sleeping better, etc?
posted by Avenger to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This is totally unscientific, but I've heard that it means you're really depressed. This page says the same thing, FWIW.

Waking up feeling exhausted after adequate down time is probably something to see a doctor about.
posted by hjo3 at 12:51 AM on April 9, 2008

Oh sweet baby jesus. That page also offers advice on both your Celtic and Chinese horoscopes, an exploration of Zircon as a birthstone, and links to celebrity gossip, entertainment, fashion and music. WIW is out-of-hand dismissal: pshaw!

Seconding hjo3's second bit, however: I encourage you to go down to the clinic and have a chat with the doc on duty. If you're waking up tired and exhausted, for whatever reason, that's not good. Maybe it's nothing, maybe it's something. I wouldn't be concerned that it's indicative of a bigger problem just yet... sleep can be weird, dreams doubly so... but you need it to stop so that you can concentrate on other things, like learning, and you'll likely get better medical advice there than here.
posted by mumkin at 2:20 AM on April 9, 2008

I get the same thing, having dreams where I end up really sleepy. And I, too, find myself waking up and feeling rather similar.

I think the waking up bit is the key; for some reason I'm (slowly) waking up before I should be, and right in the middle of a REM cycle, and the feeling of being tired is leaking into my dreams as my body becomes more aware of itself.

I have very chaotic sleep patterns; for example, right now it's coming up on 11am, and I've been awake since about 6pm yesterday. It's fairly easy to imagine that my body might be a bit confused as to when it should be waking up.

Hmm, you know, someone should really set up a bug tracker for things like this ;)
posted by Freaky at 2:44 AM on April 9, 2008

Sleep Apnea perhaps? If you aren't getting oxygen, you will wake up tired.
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:22 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I also dream about sleeping or trying to sleep sometimes, so you're not the only one.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:54 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your dreams are based (loosely) on what you experienced recently while conscious. If you visited your mom the day before, the odds are increased that you'll dream about your mom. If you have been very drowsy lately, you're likely to dream about that.

I've had them before too. Usually when I was dog-tired the day/week before.

I'd be more worried about waking up exhausted than about the dream...
posted by mmoncur at 4:06 AM on April 9, 2008

Here's a forum post where some lucid dreamers talk about the same thing.

I also wake up tired and exhausted when I have these little episodes.

Does it pass after a while or last all day? Grogginess for 1/2 hour or so is characteristic of waking up during deep sleep.

it seems a little disturbing to me that I should get exhausted at, ostensibly, the very moment that my body and mind are supposed to be recharging

You have to remember that the brain cycles through very different sleep stages during a night's sleep. In some sense I don't think it's unreasonable that passing from dreaming into NREM might be a bit like passing from wakefulness into NREM sleep. NREM sleep (slow-wave "deep sleep" in particular) seems to be the most important for making us feel refreshed and restored, although there are a lot of things about sleep that remain uncertain.
posted by tomcooke at 4:08 AM on April 9, 2008

Also, you might find taking some steps to improve your sleep hygiene might allow you to experience more restorative sleep which could reduce the number of these episodes that you get.
posted by tomcooke at 4:17 AM on April 9, 2008

i've had dreams where i've been totally exhausted, too, and i wake up tired. maybe it's due to irregular sleep patterns (going to bed later than usual, for example) or some environmental issue (stuffy nose, apnea, unusual sleep position)
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:26 AM on April 9, 2008

I've had dreams of me going to sleep, usually in awkward places like a hallway floor, because in the dream I'm too tired to even crawl into bed. Afterwards, it almost felt like part of my brain was aware of going into a deeper stage of sleep and this was my dream-interpretation of it. But I have no idea if that's true, because on further reflection, it does seem to occur more often if I'm depressed or had an exhausting week.

I wish I had a definite answer for you, but as Jacqueline says, at least now you know you aren't alone.
posted by sandraregina at 4:39 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't have an answer for you, either, but I experience the same thing at least once a week, if not more. A lot of times I dream that I'm fighting to stay awake through a conversation or activity. I also have a lot of dreams where I'm trying to do something like drive a car or run away from someone, but I can't because I'm too tired. I have no idea what it means.
posted by korres at 5:24 AM on April 9, 2008

If I dreamed I was falling asleep while I was already asleep, I'd be worried when I woke up that I was still asleep.
posted by jrishel at 5:38 AM on April 9, 2008

Best answer: I've had dreams like this, stuff if going on, but I'm so tired, and my eyelids so heavy that I have to force them open with my fingers, all I want to do is lay down.

My guess was always that part of my brain was saying `Hey, sleep!' because it was asleep, while other parts of my brain are saying `let's get onboard that zeppelin and head for adventure' in the dream, and the crosstalk makes asleep me tired.
posted by tomble at 6:07 AM on April 9, 2008

I'd start with a multivitamin and a doctor visit. Your doctor will do some blood tests to check for anemia among other things, then you can go from there.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 6:15 AM on April 9, 2008

sandraregina has a very plausible explanation- your sub-subconscious wants to turn off the dream because it wants to change sleep modes. The only way it can do it is to make you sleepy in your dream.

And hey, bonus- double sleep!
posted by gjc at 6:37 AM on April 9, 2008

Spin like a dervish. Are you sure it's tired? Many of my dreams end in not being able to move anymore, like walking through molasses, can barely crawl, things go dark. It's the end of a dream cycle. Lucid dreaming advice, when this starts to happen, spin... you might just end up in the next dream. Sounds to me like standard waking up a bit to soon, your body is paralyzed to keep you from punching yourself or actually running while you dream. Sometimes you hit the edge of dream time.

Tired and sleep doesn't quite fit me, but slowly not being able to move anymore is common for me. You can learn to recognize that you're dreaming and the spinning trick usually works.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:03 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know, I get really drowsy when I'm dehydrated. Is it possible you do too, and your body is expressing its usual reaction to dehydration within the dream?

I mean, there's really no reason NOT to drink a glass of water before you hit the hay, right?
posted by crinklebat at 7:10 AM on April 9, 2008

This happens to me quite a lot. I have a bunch of standard dream types where there's something I need to get done and I'm too exhausted to go on and do it, and yet I sort of stumble along trying to do it anyhow. Can't keep eyes open, can't stay standing, waiting to find a place to lie down just as soon as I've done whatever it is I have to do. However, unlike you, I wake up feeling pretty ok and I have decent sleep patterns otherwise. Without putting too much mental effort into it, my analysis of what is happening with me is a few things

- this is just a standard "oh my gosh I'm in an aditorium without my pants" dream, only it's in my own stress-metaphor which is a lack of energy metaphor. Like who cares if I don't have pants on, that's not scary to me, but not being able to do something because I'm tired? I worry about that.
- there's bleed-through between my unconscious sleepy mind and my sleeping body. I've often felt that this sort of response is because I'm vaguely lucidly dreaming but my brain-mind is faced with the reality of my sleeping inert body and sort of mashes it together in this weird and broken way. So I'm sleepy because I'm actually sleeping and some crossed wires make me confuse dreamtime with non-dreamtime.
- unfulfilled desires generally are a metaphor in dreams, mine and others. I also have dreams (less frequently now) where I can't wait to get off of some interminable phone call or can't wait to sneak away and go fool around with my paramour but the path to actual attainment of what I desire is long and seemingly never-ending. Sometimes these dreams tire me out in "real life" they seem like neverending sagas and the "I am tired and can't sleep" dreams are just one type.

So, I don't know if any of this is at all helpful and I suggest looking into apnea and sleep hygeine options as you explore this but the subject of the dreams themselves is not, to my mind, unusual.
posted by jessamyn at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2008

Best answer:
"The images in dreams, wrote Coleridge, figure forth the impressions that our intellect would call causes; we do not feel horror because we are haunted by a sphinx, we dream a sphinx in order to explain the horror that we feel."
From Ragnarok by Jorge Luis Borges
posted by ludwig_van at 8:48 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

Um, there are different stages of sleep. Besides dreaming, there is deep, dreamless sleep. This happens to me, and I assume that I'm on the cusp of moving from dreaming sleep to dreamless sleep. Generally, I lose consciousness pretty soon after I feel this, so I'm guessing that's what's happening.
posted by zeek321 at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2008

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