Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nightmares and night terrors – two different things

About 6% of children experience night terrors.  Their symptoms are similar to those described below.  Almost all children outgrow the propensity by adolescence.  When adults have night terrors, it’s considered to be a sleep disorder and a very unpleasant one at that.

Dear SMYD,

My husband has the worst nightmares of anyone I’ve ever heard of.  He wakes up screaming!  Once our neighbors even heard him it was so loud!

He doesn’t seem to have any trouble falling asleep, but several times a month he bolts upright in the bed, sweating and his heart is racing.  Mostly he yells, “NO!  No!”  But other times I can’t understand what he’s saying.  It’s scary to me!

Sometimes he thrashes around like he’s running in his sleep.  I’ve had to duck to keep from getting hit more than once.  One time he stood up on the edge of the bed and I thought he was going to run out of the room.
When this happens, it takes a while for him to even recognize me.  He won’t talk to me or answer my questions.  No matter how hard I try to tell him everything’s going to be OK, he’s inconsolable. 

Then he kind of snaps out of it and says he doesn’t remember anything except trying to get away from something or someone who was going to kill him. 

We’re both afraid to fall asleep!  What should we do?

Afraid to Sleep with My Husband!

Dear Afraid,

You have described the classic symptoms not of nightmares, but ‘night terrors.’

Many parents have rushed to their child’s bedside in the dark of night after hearing the screams of night terrors.  Most children will fall back to sleep after being assured that mom or dad is close by to protect them.  Next morning, most kids have no recall of the events of the night before.  Thank goodness, young ones typically outgrow the night terrors.

Only 1 to 3% of adults experience night terrors.  In adults they are considered a sleep disorder.  They do not occur during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep associated with the dream state where a ‘normal’ nightmare might occur.  Just as you’ve described, the details of what was terrorizing the sleeper are rarely recalled.  In more extreme cases, sleep walking and more dangerous activities have been reported – using kitchen appliances, leaving the house and even driving a car!

Your husband might try a before-bed snack as some research indicates that those experiencing night terrors may be hypoglycemic.  It’s uncertain how low blood sugar might be contributing to the terrors, but it’s worth trying as the correlation is documented. 

Also, some have experienced success in breaking the cycle of night terrors by waking themselves up a few minutes before they typically fall victim to the distressful event.  So, if he usually starts screaming at 2AM, set the alarm for 1:45, Dear Dreamer. 

If the night terrors continue, it’s time to visit the doctor.  Some medications have been effective in treating this disorder.

Sweet Dreams to You!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Scary dream? Good for you!

Our dreams come in service of our health and well-being – even the scary ones. 

Dear SMYD,

About a month and a half ago, I was turned down for a supervisor position at my job and moved from one supervisor to another.  My new supervisor is great but my old supervisor and I had issues. She started rumors and tried to hurt my reputation.  I'm working hard to rebuild a positive reputation again now.  I was shocked that someone who called herself my friend (my old supervisor) would be so nasty to me.

Then I started having this recurring dream.  Basically, it starts off that I'm in the hospital with a headache and the doctor tells me I am having a baby.  My first feeling when told I was having a baby was shock and disbelief.  

Next thing I know, I have a baby that is about 6 inches long!  I felt warm and happy when I saw the baby the first time, but worried that the baby is so small.  It looks very premature.  The hospital sends me home with the baby even though I keep telling them the baby is too premature.  Once home, I keep checking the baby's pulse and feel for breathing.  I was afraid I or someone else would hurt the baby.  I never can tell if the baby is alive.  

This dream is very frightening to me and I can't seem to sleep because of it.  Can you help?

Afraid to Sleep/Dream

Dear Afraid,

I'm sorry you had to endure so much unpleasantness at work and in your recurring dream.

It’s important to note a parallel occurrence – Your difficulties at work and your new job began about six weeks ago and the baby in your dream is about six inches long.  This is a tip off to your dream’s topic.

Babies in dreams often signal hope and new beginnings.  Your dream suggests that there is more faith in you at work than you currently believe.  They entrust you with a new baby – a new position.  But it's hard for you to believe that you have new life at work.  You can't believe the baby is alive.

In fact, you keep checking to see if it's true that this new baby, this new life/opportunity, is alive and well under the circumstances.  You're afraid that somehow you will hurt the baby.

There is also a fear that someone else will hurt the baby.  This is a reflection of what happened to you – a trusted person surprised you and hurt you.  Your dream reflects your fear that this will happen again in your new position.

After such a stressful time it's hard to get back to believing in yourself and trusting others, Dear Dreamer. 
Your dream offers an urgent affirmation through repetition that you are well thought of and have a true start fresh in your new role.  Don’t ruin it with constant worry.

You may have follow-up dreams, but this frightening dream most likely will not recur again now.  

Sweet Dreams to You!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Brain soup is good for you


Many dismiss dreams as the random firing of synapses; sort of a fireworks of the brain, letting off of steam and nothing more.  Today’s dreamer seems to fall into this group of dreamers.

Dear SMYD,

What’s all the fuss about dreams?  I think people read too much into them!  Here’s the way I see it:
Every night scenarios of my previous day and thoughts still anchored inside as I go to bed combine to make what I call “brain soup…” the ingredients are tied together in a flavorless mass. 

Don’t give too much attention to the night’s nonsense!


A Skeptic

Dear Skeptic,

Certainly many manage their lives and personal growth without the assistance of their dreams.  Some eschew help from any source, seeking a sense of independence and self-sufficiency even when faced with complex problems and emotional dilemmas they’ve tried unsuccessfully to resolve on their own. 

I’m reminded of the ramps built for handicapped access to public buildings.  Certainly, the elderly, those in wheelchairs and others needing assistance, got it when the ramps were put in place.  But maybe you’ve noticed that many able-bodied folks use those ramps too. 

So it is, or can be, with dreams.  They provide easy access into original and inspired problem-solving that eludes us during waking life.

No one is required to take the ramp and delve into the creative language of metaphor.  No one is mandated open another perspective into the work of his or her daily life and relationships.  But those who do find a rich resource there for the asking, a wealth of insights and possibilities laid out for them to consider and implement as they choose.


I’m so glad Robert Lewis Stevenson worked with scenarios from his dreams as he created many of his stories and novels, most notably his masterpiece, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Mozart and Beethoven both heard compositions in their dreams before bringing them into existence in the waking world. 

Dimitri Mendeleyev saw the basic elements of the physical universe in a dream and woke to create the first model of the periodic table. 


Albert Einstein credited a sledding dream with providing his early understanding of the principle of relativity:  “You could say, and I would say, that my entire scientific career has been a meditation on that dream!”

On one point at least, Dear Dreamer, your assessment of dreams proves true:  In each of the famous cases of dreams’ contributions cited here, those dreamers of towering intellect and talent had examined the problems facing them from every viewpoint they knew and understood in their waking lives.  When they laid their heads on their pillows, those scenarios and thoughts still anchored in their brains went to work, applying the wisdom and creativity of the dreaming mind to offer up new ways of deciphering clues and unraveling mysteries.

Thank goodness for our Brain Soup!  Anything but a flavorless mass.

Sweet Dreams to You!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dream to boss - You're not funny

Recurring dreams can be the most upsetting of all dreams.  We almost always wake from them confused and frustrated.  Why do I keep having this dream?!  The good news is that recurring dreams’ link to waking life is one of the clearest. 

Dear SMYD,

To keep things anonymous, I will only say that I am in a high-powered, high-profile career.  I have a lot of authority and a lot of responsibility.  It really is a great job that carries with it respect and a good paycheck.  I love the job and all the perks of being the one people look to for direction.  My words carry weight. 
But one thing I don’t like about the job is that I always have to say the right thing.  I can never relax and say what I’m really thinking.  I have to be politically correct all the time.  If I make a joke, people take it the wrong way.  I get complaints that almost always start with:  “A person in your position…”  I have been directed to apologize for things that should add levity.  So it is a stifling in that way. 

Anyway, I have had this dream many times over the years.  It varies in some details, but is without a doubt another version of the same dream, again and again:  I am dressed for work but I seem to be the mailman (I am NOT a mailman!).  I have only one letter, but for some reason, I cannot get it to the addressee.  No matter how many places I take it, no one wants it.  I am very frustrated by this, but I keep trying to deliver the letter.  I feel confused since it’s a perfectly good letter, nothing like the bill collector or the IRS.  I wake up lost and bewildered.

What do you make of this dream?


Just Kidding

Dear Kidder,

Recurring dreams have a timing mechanism that is straightforward – they recur when the dreamer repeats a particular pattern of behavior.  Often the behavior is negative or self-defeating in some way.

One strategy for getting a clear understanding of the meaning of a recurring dream is to write it down when it happens.  Coupled with that, make note of the events of the day or days before the dream.  Chances are excellent that you will quickly recognize the pattern of your dream’s recurrence.
If you make a note of your dream the very next time you have it, it seems likely that you will see your dream of an undelivered message (the letter) recurs when you have some pent up humor that you must stifle at work. 

Clearly, your jokes do not belong in your serious, professional setting.  But you have a sense of humor that’s itching to get out.  Find an outlet for your humor, Dear Dreamer, before you crack wise one time too many!

Sweet Dreams to You!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dream Interpretation: Make the turn to get what you say you want

Pay attention to levels and directions in your dreams.  These will offer clues to your current status and the route your dream suggests for you.

Dear SMYD,

Background:  I gained a lot of weight while I lived a high stress life for more than 25years.  When I first retired and changed my life, I decided to go on a diet.  I lost 20lbs pretty fast.  But I have been stuck for over a year now.  I want to lose about 20 more pounds.  I use my Wii balance board every day.  I even tried “Losing it with Jillian” exercise DVD’s.  I track everything – minutes of activity, food eaten, calories burned – the works.  I feel like I’m doing everything right, but I just go up 2lbs and down 2lbs. 

In my dream I am driving my car in the dark and it comes to light that the car is overheated.  I am distressed by this and tell my passenger (don’t know who it is), "Oh no!  I've been driving it overheated for a long time."

Next I'm in the garage with Jillian Michaels!  I'm standing on my Wii balance board and there is a tow rope attached.  I'm up on some sort of platform.  There is snow on the floor of the garage.  We have devised some sort of game – the garage door will open and Jillian will tow me out on the board as though it were a ski.

But I’m not ready.  First off, I'm facing the wall of the garage and the door is perpendicular to me on my right.  And I'm on a raised platform.  So when she begins to tow me I will drop off the platform, have to make a right turn and then be towed out.  I tell her I'm not ready but the wheels are in motion.

What in the world does it mean?

Yoyo Dieter

Dear Yoyo,

Driving in the dark is a metaphor for going about your business while uninformed or unaware of something important.  In your case, that something could be your ‘overheated engine’ during all those years of stressful living and working.  In essence, you were ‘in the dark’ as to the damage you might be doing to yourself.

The raised platform in your dream most likely refers to the weight loss plateau where you say you are stuck, at a higher point than you want to be.  Fitness guru Jillian Michaels is ready to tow you off, but it will require a radical turn from what you have been doing.  You say you ‘even tried’ her exercise DVD’s, which implies a short-lived or half-hearted effort.  Current wisdom says dieting and tracking calories is half the equation.  Exercise, represented by Jillian, is the other half of the tried-and-true formula. 

Twice in your dream you say you are not ready to make the turn and be pulled off the plateau.  Examine the truth of that statement Dear Dreamer.  What will it take for you to commit to a complete and proven weight loss program?

Sweet Dreams to You!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Takes time to make up your mind

Unlike today's dreamer, these cows can't wait to get out to the next pasture.

Look for reversals or contradictory elements in your dreams.  They will show you the crux of the decision you are bound to make.  Today’s dreamer asks, “Should I stay or should I go?”

Dear SMYD,

Many of my friends and family members in my age group seem excited about the idea of retirement.  It has taken me a while to warm up to it.  I guess I have been a little anxious about what I would do or even who I would be if I’m not working any more.  I still plan to work a while longer, but over the past year or so, retirement has been more and more appealing, probably because things at work just are not what they used to be.  I keep it to myself, but my new boss is really just a jerk and the new direction for the company leaves me pretty dissatisfied and ready to take the retirement plunge.  I could be a positive influence, but I feel like no one wants to hear what I have to say.

I was thinking about this last night and then I had this dream:  I’m traveling with a group of people to China or Russia – a big foreign country – I feel like I’m defecting!  We have reached the border and are lined up to go through customs.  Each person ahead of me presents his documents to the agent and is cleared to pass through.  But when it comes to my turn, I don’t seem to have my passport or any other paperwork to satisfy the agent.  He blows his whistle and I am escorted to a holding area where I must wait.  This makes me frustrated and tired.  I want to go with my co-workers!


Still Got Game

Dear Gamer,

Your dream has chosen a vast foreign country to represent your frame of mind about retirement.  It is the great unknown to you, as you said – Who will you be and what will you do when you enter that wide open expanse?  The feeling of defection in your dream mirrors the feelings you have about your long-time workplace – you could be, and still want to be helpful.  Therefore, you can’t help thinking of retirement as escaping under adverse circumstances – a coward’s way out from a fighter’s point of view.

Then comes the reversal, even though you feel a bit cowardly about leaving, when you find yourself blocked at the exit, you feel frustrated and angry.  Your peers get to go ahead of you!  Smooth sailing for them!  It’s just not fair!  You are escorted to a holding tank, a penalty box of sorts, where you must wait “a while longer” and watch until your time comes.

Your dream illustrates the dilemma you’re faced with, Dear Dreamer, a sort of damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I don’t predicament.  It’s a normal state of mind for someone like you who is making his peace with one phase of life before moving on to the next.  All in good time.

Sweet Dreams to You!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dream Interpretation - Disaster is headed your way

Our dreams offer multiple layers of meaning.  Most of what they present comes in the form of metaphor, but we have countless examples of their predictive capacity as well.  Today’s dreamer may take advice from the literal and figurative interpretations of her dream.

Dear SMYD,

A while ago you really helped me figure out a dream I had about my grandmother and I really appreciated it.
I have had another disturbing dream and was wondering if you could help me out again?

My dream was:  My husband and I were riding his Harley.  It was on a busy highway, but I did not recognize the road, and we were going quite fast.  A car was approaching our side of the road, coming at us head on.  The bike began to 'shudder' and I knew we were about to crash.  I remember realizing I didn't have my protective leather jacket on and therefore I knew I was going to shred my arms to bits in the inevitable crash.  I knew that my husband knew what I was going to feel when we crashed and my arms were shredded.  I placed my arms around him and just kept repeating, “It's going to be alright, it's going to be alright.”

My daughter came into my bedroom two days later and told me she had a nightmare - that I had died (she didn't know how) but she was attending my funeral!

Can you please help decipher any of this?


Hoping It Isn’t True

Dear Hoping,

Our dreams can be very unsettling!  Sorry you've had such a jarring dream to deal with, coupled with your daughter’s nightmare!

Your daughter's dream is most likely not a part of yours, but rather a metaphor for establishing her own identity.  Try not to worry too much about this.  But of course, wear your leather jacket and helmet if you go for a ride!

Your dream seems to be speaking about an endeavor you and your husband have embarked upon; represented by your motorcycle ride on a busy (business) road with which you are unfamiliar.  This venture requires dexterity and balance and is moving forward quickly.  It is risky; you can foresee a negative outcome; and you’re without your protective gear.  Your husband is at risk too, even though he seems unaware or unconcerned.

You can see that disaster is imminent - the car coming at you head-on.  Both you and your husband know that the very things that can protect you - your arms - will be shredded.  Yet you continue your forward motion with a vain effort to protect/console him and yourself, "It's going to be alright."

Perhaps this venture takes the waking form of a rush to an action or decision of some kind.  Sometimes such things move forward, even when both parties involved have reservations, because neither person is willing to speak out and change the course:  "If s/he thinks it's OK, then it must be OK."  Don’t wait to speak your mind, Dear Dreamer!

Sweet Dreams to You!