Monday, February 16, 2009

Question of the Week: Strange dreams right before sleep?


Before I fall asleep, I tend to have weird little dreams. One that happens pretty frequently (about every few months), I'll see myself suddenly fall down the stairs and I'll feel the Impact while I'm lying in my bed. It actually feels as if I've fallen down the stairs and I always open my eyes, startled. The other dream that comes to me almost every night before sleep is one in which I will suddenly start speaking complete nonsense, but everyone understands me. I'll say something like, "Ernest Hemingway needed to make sure he had enough chickens to go to school."

Why do I have these dreams while I am still conscious and what do they mean?

Even if you are not fully “asleep” yet doesn’t mean you can’t dream. Many people experience what you describe before going to bed because at this time our brain is switching into different modes. During our sleep, our brain actually shuts down different areas of it as well as activates different areas. Dreams are thought to be causes by our brain trying to make sense of this action reaction. If you happen to be conscious during this transition you may experience visual, auditory, or even a combination of hallucinations until the process is completed and then you are fully “asleep”.

Sleeping is just not one process; it’s a combination of processes that take time to complete. No two brains are identical and so each person experiences different processes differently. Also our brains are continually changing, and so you many experience dreaming differently every given night.

About what your dreams mean, I would say nothing. I believe dreams that we experience are a combination of dissociation and past memory access. That theory is backed up by much of the most recent research being conducted on sleep. People who still believe dreams have meaning supported Freud who had little to no neuroscience type of background and still is unable to test his theory. In short, dreams only have the meaning we put into them, according to science.


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