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Let me dream

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

Anyone who knows me understands that a full seven or eight hours of nightly sleep is near to impossible.

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At best I get six hours, but recently I've circled back to the four hour sleep cycle.

The past two weeks have been worse – I'm like a newborn, waking every two hours, no matter how tired I am.

However, unlike a newborn, I don't demand a feeding. Most of the time I either lie there until exhaustion overtakes me or I get up and prowl Facebook, joining other insomniacs around the globe.

I like to sleep, but not for the reasons most people like slumber.

I am a vivid dreamer. I always have been. There was a time in my life when I wrote down, in detail, as soon as I awakened, every dream I had.

Sometimes I am a participant in the dreams; other times I am watching a story unfold. Either way, the dreams are real, in color and seemingly long.

I say seemingly, because most dreams, according to the experts, are two to four minutes while others can last up to 30 minutes.

I think mine range somewhere in the middle, although there have been many times when I have awakened from a dream, gotten up to use the bathroom and returned to sleep to pick up right where I left off. It's rare, but it has happened.

Most people dream while in the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep and most are in REM two to four times each night.

REM is when your brain is most active, aside from when you are awake.

A few years ago, my then-doctor was concerned I had sleep apnea because I am always tired. (He wouldn't listen to me about my crazy work life and family life.) He ordered a sleep study.

Turns out I was correct. Everyone from the sleep tech to the doctor was surprised. I did not/do not have sleep apnea but I go into REM more often than most people, which accounts for all the dreaming I do.

And since the brain is so active during REM, it may account for my fatigue: my brain really doesn't shut down.

I also have recurring dreams. Many people do. The most common one is being in high school and forgetting the combination to your locker.

I've had that one many times and it usually ends with me heading toward the principal's office to beg the secretary, Mrs. Johnson, to just tell me what the combination is.

Because of my one recurring dream, I really wish I could draw.

I've had the same dream dozens of times over the last 30 years. It is my dream house – a maze of rooms with one that is hidden from everyone but me.

It is a beautiful house – designed perfectly. Often I have to weave my way through the maze to reach the secret room, where I often hide from others. The secret room is my sanctuary and I retreat there to avoid people.

That dream has meaning.

Psychologists and dream experts agree that dreaming of a house with rooms is about you – your psyche – and how you feel about yourself.

Discovering a hidden room is a part of you that you keep from everyone else – perhaps the best part of you that you do not let anyone else see or be near.

If I were an artist, I could draw you this house – every nook and cranny of it. Alas, I cannot. Large spacious rooms; long straight corridors; beautiful furnishings and easy to get around in. It is a dream I look forward to.

However, the dreams I wish I could most control are those about my parents and brothers – all long dead now.

I dream of my parents often. Those dreams are always happy and my parents are more often than not younger than they were when they died. I am either my current age or somewhat younger, but never a child – always an adult.

In these dreams, we're usually traveling or gathering for a family occasion, a meal or a holiday.

We are laughing without cares or worries.

Dream experts say dreaming of a deceased parent is your mind's way of dealing with grief. While that may be true, for me, it is a reminder of the love our family shared and the importance we played in one another's lives.

Someone told me once that they dislike dreaming of their parents. It brought sadness and feelings that cannot be shaken, she said.

I could not disagree more. To me dreams of my loved ones are like wonderful videos or movies that I don't want to ever end. For a time we are all happy and whole. Life is simpler and we are focused on nothing but love.

Then the alarm sounds and reality slaps me in the face.

Dreams are important – and not just the nocturnal ones either.

The dreams we have for living also provide inspiration and insight into who we are and where we are going. Giving up dreams would be akin to giving up hope, casting aside belief.

Hope, belief – I have plenty. Dreams too.

And combined, the sky's the limit.

Now just let me sleep. I need to dream more.