Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nightmares

Going on the assumption that a large group of well-educated, well-read people will know something about everything, can anybody tell me why I wake up yelling from nightmares at least twice a week and have for years, and more importantly, what the heck can I do to stop it? (I generally don't remember my dreams, but the ones that wake me up tend to linger in my memory.)

26 comments:

Bill Crider said...

Over-active imagination? Stress? I don't really know. I've had a few, myself.

Richard Robinson said...

Something is in there, and it's trying to get out...

Okay. I have no idea. Wife has them frequently, and tells me often they are connected in some way with what she's reading, watching or discussing shortly before sleep. She reads a lot of dark stuff (John Connelly, Carol O'Connell, Val McDermid, Jeffery Deaver and the like) and that could be a clue. Truth is, I'm only guessing here, but I'll bet there's some 450 page tome all about the psychology of dreams out there.

Chap O'Keefe said...

So I'm not the only one! A relief of sorts, but it must be a trial for comfortably sleeping wives, or vice versa in Richard's case.

Todd Mason said...

Well, a self-employed/freelancing man in a tough economy who had his house burn down last year? Where's the stress?

A pro, if your health plan helps you there, might help, too...

Gonzalo B said...

Have you used any of those dreams in your books?

Richard Prosch said...

The good news, of course, is that you wake up. I do wonder if writing down everything you can recall, in detail, would help?

larrygebert said...

stress

Harp of Hyperion said...

I think there are two related, but distinct, questions here:

First, what *causes* regular nightmares. Psychologists would say that it is something you have repressed, which works its way into awareness when your defenses are lowered in sleep. Perhaps some of the fears that Todd mentioned. Making a living freelancing in one of the arts, enviable and commendable thought it may be, has *got* to be at least somewhat stressful; all the more so in a difficult economy.

Second, what can you *do* about it? Two solutions: First, the same psychologists would probably recommend extensive, and expensive, treatment to identify and address the root fears causing that sleep disturbance.

Second, and the approach that has worked for me: there are a number of ways to give yourself a subconscious suggestion when you fall asleep. You can use any or all of those standard techniques to seize control, and become semi-lucid, when a nightmare occurs. By doing that, when the proverbial monster raises its hoary head, you can, in the dream, dress it in a frilly skirt, or diminish its size to a point where you crush it or, my favorite, dream yourself suddenly supplied with an endless supply of armaments and beat it up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wake up every single morning about four or five am full of dread-such dread I can't get back to sleep some days. I asked a doctor about it once and she blamed it on my brain chemistry--that it has trouble in adjusting to the day. I try to use a light screen when its dead winter. Maybe your dreams are similar. My father did the screaming stuff and we thought his was from the war. Did you fight in a war?

Rittster said...

James,

Sorry to hear that. I have a friend I've known for twenty years who has had what are called "night terrors" or "sleep paralasis" at least twice a week for many years. About two months ago he started taking a regimen of Prozac and Klonopin, and says he hasn't had a night terror in several weeks. The medication was prescribed by a psychiatrist, but he isn't seeing the psychiatrist for any issues except the night terrors and gerneralized anxiety. Hope that helps.

Rick said...

It's probably a horror story trying to make its way to the page.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I take Klonopin, which helps me get to sleep but not stay asleep. I'm a bit fearful of Prozac.

Rittster said...

James,
By the way, if you want any more info, I can send you my friend's email address and let him know you'll be contacting him.

Patti,
I tried prozac in the past. I suffer from anxiety and panic issues myself. It didn't help me, didn't hurt me. It just didn't have much effect. I guess I'm just trying to say that, at least from my experience, prozac was nothing to be scared of. Of course, you might know people who've have negative experiences with it. I did end up taking a different medication from the same "family" of drugs, which ended up being helpful. It was awhile ago, so I don't remember what it was. Paxil, I think.

James Reasoner said...

I appreciate all the comments and suggestions. This has been a fascinating discussion.

I lean toward the over-active imagination explanation, since I've been prone to nightmares as far back as I can remember, even in times that were relatively stress-free. The odd thing is that there's no discernible pattern to it. I might go for several months without having any nightmares, and then suddenly I wake up yelling five or six nights a week for the next six months. I've wondered if it's something that I was eating, or too much time spent on the computer or something like that, but as I said, I haven't been able to identify any particular trigger. I've never been in a war or any other extremely violent sort of situation.

Since Livia's never complained about it, I probably won't go to the trouble and expense of therapy or medication, but I do like the idea of trying to control the dreams with subconscious suggestions. Heavy armament sounds good to me. Luckily, even when a dream wakes me up, I can usually roll over and go right back to sleep, and whatever the nightmare was doesn't pick up again.

As far as I know, I've never used dreams in my fiction, and I've never written one down when I wake up. That might be something to consider.

Again, thanks to all of you. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one this happens to.

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

Doing stuff that actually gets you to sleep rather than keeping you effectively awake (coffee and alcohol, heavy dinners with lots of red meat ..) might help, a lot.

Dreams are part of what's called REM sleep (rapid eye movement) and you might get vivid dreams because you're on some kind of medication that affects sleep too - cough or asthma medicine that makes you woozy for example.

Sleep therapy of some sort might too - and a neurologist might find some other stuff he can suggest.

Read up http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1702 if you like - someone else's very similar experiences.

Though it just doesnt pay to troubleshoot this yourself by reading readers digest or searching google.

Find a qualified neurophysician and he'll probably help you, if this is bad enough and some dietary changes, a regular sleep cycle etc don't help cut this down for you.

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

And DONT self medicate, y'all.

If you're prescribed clonazepam (klonopin) or fluoxetin (prozac) by a qualified neurophysician or psychiatrist after evaluation - maybe a neuro would be a better choice - take it, but go easy on it, drop it as soon as the doc says it is ok to do so. In fact see if you can do without it first - with diet changes, exercise etc.

Those drugs can have a wide range of nasty consequences - klonopin is a muscle relaxant also used to treat parkinsons disease and prozac is used to treat depression among other things.

Overdose / wrongly dose on those and you are likely to end up with at least some symptoms of something very nasty indeed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Without knowing a lot of details, something as simple as changing your sleeping position can often help. I'd suggest sleeping on your side for example, and trying to remain mostly on one side or the other during your night's sleep. Do you sleep mostly on your back? This tends to lead to a lighter sleep and more active dreams.

James Reasoner said...

Suresh,
Thanks for the link. Lots of interesting comments there! I was especially interested in the possible link between recurring nightmares and Parkinson's Disease, since my dad was diagnosed late in his life as having "non-tremor Parkinson's". (I didn't know there was such a thing.)

Charles,
I try to not sleep on my back at all, since it makes my snoring worse. I don't have sleep apnea, just plain old snoring.

Livia J (Washburn) Reasoner said...

I'm with Bill on this one. Over-active imagination. Also James loves eating ice cream before bedtime. He's allergic to sugar, so milk that converts to sugar mixed with lots of sugar probably does make the nightmares worse. I honestly don't think the nightmares stress him as much as giving up ice cream would. Usually he's back snoring in a minute after screaming his head off. :)

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

Hi Jim, never did say there's a link between your nightmares and parkinsons.

There's some genetic factor so you MAY get it because your dad or other close relatives got it - on the other hand you may well not.

Laying off the ice cream might be a great idea in fact, judging by your wife's comment.

Energy boosts like that - sugar, caffeine etc - tend to keep you awake.

Sleep therapy would also work for you, a lot. Maybe a different mattress, maybe try a sleeping bag or something, on the floor. A firm bed would probably support your back better, get you to toss and turn less.

Harp of Hyperion said...

Actually, nightmares can be kind of fun and cathartic if you can seize *control* of them.

Depending upon whether your default is to think in an auditory or visual manner, as your falling asleep, you think to yourself something like "this time I'm showin' that monster whose *boss*!", or visualize a picture of yourself kicking *ss and taking numbers against whatever scares you in the dream.

If you do that, then when a nightmare starts, you stand a better chance of seizing control of the dream, and experiencing the empowerment of showing the nightmare what for!

(Also, if you seize control of the dream, whatever subconscious fear or anxiety is being expressed stands a better chance of being revealed, when you turn on it, and confront it).

Off topic, but I read your Gabriel Hunt novel and enjoyed it. (I reviewed it at: http://pulpfan.livejournal.com/9569.html .

I'd like to check out your Longarms, but, of course, they don't give an "as told to" credit, like the Gabriel Hunt books do. Would it violate a nondisclosure agreement, or can you tell me which of those you felt most pleased with?

Rittster said...

James,
Wow, did you ever think this post about nightmares would garner such a response? And it sounds like quite a few people have put a goodly(?) amount of time and energy into studying the nature of nightmares and strategies for overcoming them.

James Reasoner said...

Suresh,
The possible link between frequent nightmares and Parkinson's is mentioned in the article on REM Behavior Disorder you linked to (which is fascinating stuff, by the way). I don't know if there's anything to it. I don't have any of the early warning symptons of Parkinson's and aren't really worried about it at this point.

Harp,
My most recent Longarm is LONGARM AND THE SAND PIRATES, and I think it's a pretty good one. Some earlier ones I like are LONGARM AND THE BRAZOS DEVIL, LONGARM AND THE VOODOO QUEEN (maybe my favorite of all the ones I've done), LONGARM AND THE GOLDEN GHOST, LONGARM AND THE BAYOU TREASURE, LONGARM AND THE HELL RIDERS, and LONGARM AND THE PINE BOX PAYOFF. After all these years, they're still great fun for me to write.

Rittster,
No, I wasn't expecting such a response. It's very gratifying. Seems like just writing about the subject may have helped. I haven't had a nightmare since I did that post. Granted, it's only been two nights so far, but I'll take what I can get . . .

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

owenI haven't had one in 30 years, but had one last night. In my case , I don't wake up screaming. I just wake up a bit unsettled. Funny thing is the dream was about losing my job, which is almost impossible.

Livia J (Washburn) Reasoner said...

Hey at least it's just screaming now. When we were newly married, and he had just watched Rocky, I woke up to him punching and ended up in the floor. LOL Definitely wanted a larger bed after that.

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

@Jim - yes I did read the article about a possible link between some forms of REM nightmares and parkinsons. But its not definite or anything, and one thing I learnt a long time back is not to self medicate or self diagnose.