So Very Vivid is the Art of Bipolar Dreaming

I felt her embrace, her breath. Her words were crystal clear. She said “Please stay. You can’t go”. And she held me tighter. And I did stay. It was a mind-blowing, surreal night. And it was with another woman. She was radiant. Magnetic. And I didn’t have a care in the world. Mostly because it wasn’t real. It was all a figment of my tortured imagination. And the female is simply a musician (who I will probably never meet) whom I happen to have a crush. When I dream a dream, I go all the way to produce the most vivid dreams I can, even if that means removing normal elements -such as the fact that I’m married- from the situation. If I’m lucky, I am able to remember the dream in the morning, which often then lingers in my thoughts for the duration of my day.

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Dreams are so interesting because it’s been known that most everybody has them, yet there is no solid reason why. Several interpretation theories have surfaced throughout time, and some commonalities have been determined. While everyone has dreams, some of us have much more vivid dreams than others. There are links between vivid dreams and mental illness, including bipolar disorder.

One reason is dreams and nightmares occur during REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. In normal sleepers, there is more deep sleep at first, and then as the hours pass, periods of REM sleep become longer. This general pattern, however, can be distorted or disrupted by any one of a number of sleep disorders or disturbances, many of which have been shown to be associated with bipolar disorder. (bipolar.about.com)

The most common sleep disorders include insomnia and hypersomnia. Other factors that disturb your sleep include medical conditions, antipsychotics or antidepressants, other over the counter medications and prescriptions, environmental factors, stress, and your sleep schedule.

Vivid vs. Average Dreams

For the most part, everybody has dreams. The majority of dreams are forgotten by morning, and those remembered are usually in fragments. About 80% of dreams are in color, but some are in black and white. Vivid dreams are like a typical dream on steroids. Basically it is so incredibly lifelike that upon waking, it is difficult to distinguish the difference between the dream and reality. It is easier to recall vivid dreams, as they leave such an imprint on the dreamer’s mind. I know I can recall each sensory detail of my most vivid dreams.

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Lucid Dreams and Nightmares

Lucid dreaming is an unusual state of consciousness where you are having a vivid dream, but you are aware that you are dreaming. This allows the dreamer the choice to exit or remain in the dream. Sometimes lucid dreams can be confusing and the dreamer may believe items or people in the room are in fact something other than what they are. This can be entertaining to the dreamer, as well as potentially embarrassing. For instance, had I acted out my steamy dream from last night, my wife would have probably wondered what was up!

Lucid nightmares are exactly like lucid dreams, except they are terrifying. What’s worse is the dreamer knows they are dreaming, but are struggling to wake up. Often feelings of being trapped or being attacked are common.

Sex It Up

According to a recent study at the University of Montreal, sex dreams make up about 8 percent of all dreams for both men and women. (Me!)  Society’s openness regarding sex, coupled with our growing interest in understanding dream content has taught us that, according to most theorists, sex dreams are rarely about sex at all – no matter how hot they might be. It is believed that the mind is hungry for the kind of psychological union represented as a physical union in the dreaming mind. I say this is an interesting theory, but I’m pretty sure many of my dreams are merely about getting down and fucking dirty!

Sleep Plays a Role

Sure, us folks with bipolar have more intense (& sexier) dreams (sorry- I’m still reliving last night!), but there are some things to keep in mind. Sleep is affected by many factors that need to be controlled. Getting quality sleep also helps regulate moods and prevent episodes. These suggestions are a challenge and I admit I struggle to follow them, but they are ideal goals and can be really beneficial.

  • Go to bed & wake up at the same time each day
  • Take meds as directed
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol 3-5 hours before bed
  • Refrain from computer, TV, or phone screen use
  • Read or meditate to wind down
  • Establish a routine for evening and morning

If you get some good, quality slumber tonight, then I wish you all some intense vivid dreaming! It’s also fun to write your dreams down in a journal to preserve the absurdity. Feel free to leave comments on this or share your dream experiences!

Power of Suggestion, Insomnia 2.0

I sit here and try to make sense of last night. The bags under my eyes whisper little taunts, validating what seemed to be a spontaneous bout of my old friend, insomnia. Once a chronic insomniac, it’s been months since I’ve had a problem falling asleep. Until last night, that is. I don’t understand it. I took my pills, which typically lull me right off into dreamland. I avoided caffeine and heavy mental stimulation. Yet, I tossed and turned for hours, my brain wide awake. I realize to some it may appear that I’m overreacting. Maybe I am. Maybe it was an isolated incident. But after years of suffering from sleepless nights, I tend to take these matters seriously for caution of pattern development.

As I ponder some more, I get my “aha!” moment. I brought this on myself via the power of suggestion! You see, I attend a Bipolar support group and at last night’s meeting, I may have overstepped my confidence on slumber ability while jabbering on at a new group member, who is struggling with her first round of insomnia.  Eager to help a newcomer and probably even more eager to spread some self-proclaimed mental wisdom, I word-vomited a bunch of sleep advice, including scientific REM sleep CD’s, avoiding blue light electronics, and of course faithfully taking your medication. Like a true recovering insomniac, I bragged about my own meds and how I peacefully drift into a perfect sleep every night. Every night until now that is. Clearly I spoke too soon.

I realize this may sound like a silly superstition. It’s not that I necessarily think I jinxed myself, but I did spend a lot of mental energy thinking about it, thus it had to have been fresh on the brain just a few hours prior to bedtime. Did I bring it on myself or is this purely coincidental? I don’t know for sure. But I will most definitely keep track of my sleep patterns for the next few days in case any adjustments need to be made. In the meantime, I will still be a welcome wagon for the newly diagnosed, but I might tone down the advice-giving a little bit.

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