Have you ever had a dream that you couldn’t wake from? One in which you know that you’re dreaming? You try desperately to wake yourself up.. But it doesn’t work. Sort of a much lesser version of sleep paralysis.
I used to think I was the only one who had this weird thing, (typical me) But after some research I found the actual medical definition for it: Lucid dreaming.
Sometimes my dreams correlate to real life and sometimes they make no sense at all.
It happened a lot when I was a child, especially if I was ill. But in the last year it’s started happening more. It’s definitely linked to my anxiety. My ‘old friend’ seems to find a new technique every year and this is the current favourite.
I was hoping to get up early today and go to the gym (as exercise is a Godsend for keeping me happy and stable), so I went to bed around 22:00. Unfortunately Rigby is going through a random “I need a wee in the middle of the night” phase at the moment. So she started barking around 3am and woke us up… she also ran in the bedroom and jumped on the bed *sigh* (so bloody cute, how can I be angry)?
After we got her back to bed I began to worry. I had to get up in two hours and what if I couldn’t fall asleep again? BIG MISTAKE (and I knew this). A thought like that is practically a red flag to a bull. I should’ve just got up, but I didn’t want to accept it. I’d be doing so well.
When I eventually fell asleep again (around 4am) I had four lucid dreams back to back.
1. I was at school with my mum and the nurse (we didn’t even have a school nurse, it was Bolton for Christ sake), was explaining that I was a burden to society. She suggested that I either start taking cocaine or volunteer for a lethal injection. At this point I became aware that I was dreaming and said – “oh f**k off, this isn’t real!”
2. I was at home (Bolton) and a man was trying to smother me with a pillow. My parents just sat there and carried on watching TV. Again I realised it wasn’t real because I don’t live at home anymore, and so I tried to get up, but I couldn’t.
3. I was in the Hunger Games (I know WTF). But for some reason it was set in a Sainsbury car park. I figured this one out quickly and walked over to another person and said “this isn’t real, I’ve had enough now.”
4. I’m in my normal bed with Dan next to me and I’m awake. Everything is ok again. But it’s not ok because there’s someone else in the room with us. It’s a man and he’s pulling the duvet down from the end of the bed. He’s laughing hysterically and I’m too scared to look at his face. It’s a dream again and this time I have a violent reaction. I turn to Dan (who is fast asleep) and start convulsing my body and shouting (but it came out as a whisper) “Dan, wake me up! Dan wake me up! Wake me up now!”
BANG I’m 100% awake this time. I’m covered in sweat, my heart is pounding and I feel panicked. The gym is out the window now because it’s 4:20 and I’m too buzzed to calm down. So instead I lie there until Dan’s alarm goes off at 7:00. I hoped to fall asleep again, but it didn’t happen. I’m exhausted and emotional. Unless you’ve experienced lucid dreaming, then it’s hard to explain how disconcerting it can be.
It’s now 13:09 in the afternoon and my brain is still ‘wired,’ still looking for signs of danger. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but I wish it could just accept that everyone in the office probably isn’t a murderer.
Sleep is very important to me. You might even say that I’m a little obsessed with it. We all need sleep and we all feel cranky if we don’t get enough. Everything seems worse when you’re tired right?
However, for me not having enough sleep = my defences are weakened and I’m more susceptible to mental illness. It’s a struggle to function properly because although my energy levels and mood plummets my adrenaline and anxiety levels increase. It’s like I’m being dragged in two different directions.
On days like today I feel incredibly alone and it’s hard. How can you explain to someone that you’re not just ‘tired’ you’re really struggling? How can you describe the pain, without sounding whiny? (Because it is genuine pain). As supportive as Dan is I think even he struggles to understand at times.
I use this example a lot, but if it were a physical condition such as a stomach bug or a cold then the evidence would be clear. But conditions of the mind are harder to quantify. How could I possibly ring in sick with ‘anxiety because I haven’t slept?’ Simple, I can’t. What would everyone think? So instead I drag myself in and agitate the situation. Sort of like trying to walk on a broken ankle.
STILL – as I always say, there is no point focusing on the things that you can’t control. As tempting as it is to wish you could do something else, it’s just a waste of energy. So what CAN I do? Or what can YOU do if you struggle to sleep or have anxiety related lucid dreams?
- Most important thing first: BE KIND TO YOURSELF! If you want to feel sad, then bloody well feel sad, it’s ok.
- Second most important thing: Don’t be super strict about your plans for the following day. I’m a sucker for this! For example, my brain is telling me “well you need to go to bed early again this evening and gym it tomorrow” – this way of thinking is setting yourself up to fail. You can’t control how you’re going to feel or what will happen. So instead I’m going to say “I’ll go to sleep WHEN I fall asleep, but I’ll still go to the gym regardless, as it helps. Even if I’ve only had four hours sleep, that’s ok. It’s not ideal, but it’s ok” – Hopefully that makes sense?!
- Make a ‘first aid kit’ plan for the evening – even if you have to be selfish and cancel plans, put yourself first. I intend to eat pasta and binge watch Reign on Netflix (so good).
- Don’t obsess about going to bed early. Go to bed when you actually feel tired, not when you think you should. Otherwise, you’ll just end up lying there.
- It’s a fairly obvious cycle, but the more you obsess about sleep the less likely it’ll come. So try and take a ‘f**K it’ attitude. Your body will sort itself out eventually, even if it takes a few days.
- If you wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep after fifteen minutes then GET UP. I should’ve followed my own rule last night and I didn’t. Make a warm drink and watch something boring on TV (nothing to stimulate the brain).
- If you wake up with a start after a nightmare or lucid dream GET UP. Don’t curl up with it again.. your brain needs time to decompress and changing the surroundings will help. So again, make a warm drink and if you’re covered in sweat then change your pyjamas.
- Lavender oil is genuinely very good for relaxation. Even though I couldn’t get back to sleep this morning, a few drops rubbed into my pyjama top helped to calm me down.
It’ll be ok, because it always is. Only three more hours and I can head home to my cosy ridiculously expensive flat and gorgeous lady, (who gets to sleep for 12 hours a day, the cow)!
SEND ME LOVE FROM SNOOZE TOWN PEOPLE! xxx