Adventures in Ethics and Science

The Free-Ride offspring have been enjoying their Spring Break visiting with the Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment. The night before they left, however, the younger Free-Ride offspring awoke in the wee hours because of a bad dream.

As we all know from the peer reviewed literature on the subject, the best treatment for that is to climb into bed with one’s mother, stealing all the covers as one falls back asleep.

Before all the covers were stolen, the younger Free-Ride offspring generated a list of questions for further research:

After I wake up from a bad dream, I’m afraid to fall asleep again because I’ll have that same bad dream again. How can you have the same dream if you’ve been awake in the middle? Is it like when you record a TV show and you can pause it but then start it again?

It feels like I’ve had some of my bad dreams before. Do people really have the same bad dreams over and over? How can you tell, when you’re in the dream, that it’s really a dream you had before?

Why can’t I remember what was happening in a dream, even if I just woke up from having it? How does my brain forget it so quickly?

If I don’t know I’m dreaming when I’m in the dream, how come I can wake up from it when it gets too scary? How can I wake up before it gets too scary?

Is there a way to go back to sleep after a bad dream and make sure I have a different dream that isn’t scary?

Comments

  1. #1 Dario Ringach
    April 9, 2010

    Sounds like the Specific Aims of an R01 grant to me. Go for it.

  2. #2 stripey_cat
    April 10, 2010

    I *wish* I knew how to wake up before the dream got too scary!

  3. #3 dining room furniture
    April 11, 2010

    Dreaming can be the nicest thing that could happen to us but also it can be the worst. I wish we could all wake up when our dreams are scaring us to death!

  4. #4 maxh
    April 11, 2010

    In reply to the last question, it is quite possible to go to sleep and not have the bad dream again, but it does require a strong mind (or a parent to help!)

    I recall a time when I woke up from a terrible nightmare. A gorilla was loose in my school and chasing students. My mother duly let me climb into bed with her and stroked my hair. Telling me that the gorilla wasn’t bad, he was just hungry and I should give him something tasty to eat, like my pancakes. She soothingly repeated this story to be as I fell back asleep and lo! I went back to my school but this time I had a stall cooking pancakes. The gorilla came and I was scared at first, but I gave him some of my pancakes and he said thank you and went away.

    Now as an adult when I wake up from a bad dream, I have to make up my own story. It’s harder but the only way I have found to avoid the nightmare!

  5. #5 Rob Monkey
    April 12, 2010

    I think feeding a gorilla pancakes would make anyone feel better about anything. Maxh, your mom had a brilliant idea there. I remember as a kid, not only did I dream more (or remember more of them, whatever), but I also was easily able to continue dreams that I woke up from just by concentrating on the last scene I remembered. Now I practically never dream (or never remember them), but maybe tonight I’ll try thinking of feeding primates baked goods while falling asleep. If it turns into a nightmare it’s at least bound to be a hilarious one!

    Anyone ever see Waking Life? Great movie about lucid dreaming, best watched with a joint firmly in hand ;)

  6. #6 maxh
    April 12, 2010

    Lol Rob Monkey
    MY mum had a great knack of turning my nightmares around. It’s not so easy now I’m older, alas. It’s funny you say you’ve stopped dreaming/remembering your dreams. I can still remember most of my dreams when I wake up. An my more vivid efforts are permenently sketched in my mind. Sometimes I wake up more fatigued than when I went to sleep due to my vigorous imagination :/
    So not cool.

  7. #7 Rob Monkey
    April 12, 2010

    I always wonder if it’s just cause now I fall asleep when I’m completely exhausted instead of when I’m just reasonably tired ;) Sounds like you need to train yourself to dream about vegging on the couch or something more relaxing if you’re waking up so tired (maybe you could dream about sleeping, but that might result in an infinite loop/coma).

  8. #8 Luna_the_cat
    April 23, 2010

    I found that reminding myself that I was going to be dreaming, and trying to develop a consciousness that I was in a dream when I was dreaming, over several weeks led to consistently lucid dreams. Then I started being able to manipulate them more. Being a lucid dreamer has a lot of advantages — I get a lot more really fun flying dreams now, since quite often I will think, in the middle of a dream “what the heck, I’m dreaming!” and will fling myself off of something tall.

    Regarding nightmares, I think one turning point came in a dream where I was being chased by a ghost. All of a sudden it occurred to me, “hey! This is MY dream. What the heck am I doing allowing this ghost to chase me around?” Then I turned around and ripped the ghost apart. Interestingly enough, I know that many people who remember their dreams report dreams of being chased, and I used to have a lot of dreams of being chased as well. Since that point, however, usually when I have chase dreams I’m the predator that is chasing something or someone in order to rip it apart. (Hey, don’t blame me. I identify with felines for a reason.)

    As to whether you can repeat the same dream: speaking personally, I can repeat very similar dreams multiple times a night, with essentially the same characters and plot elements, although individual details will be different and sometimes the emotional tone and emotional content of the dream will also be different, and this is even if I wake up in between briefly, although waking up for longer periods tends to derail that process. I see this as a way of hashing through problems, not so much to find specific answers to real world issues, but more to develop ways of reasoning. Usually by the third or fourth time through the same dream (and yes, I do usually remember multiple dreams in a night, even some of the ones I have early on), I will have figured out how to manipulate key plot elements in order to get desired outcomes, and it “feels” very much like reasoning through waking puzzles.

    I realise that I represent a sample size of 1 and it’s purely anecdotal, so it really isn’t data. But it should at least give some indication of what is possible.

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