In the summer of 2018 I preparing to start my first semester at The University of Michigan to study Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience, an area of study I was passionate about. It was during this time that I had a peculiar dream, if it could even call a dream.
I woke up in my apartment in the dead of night in a cold sweat and abruptly threw my sheets off to stand up. An inexplicable sense of fear gripped by entire being, I knew I had to leave the room, that it was not safe. One, two, three, four strides I took before the door handle was an arms length away. Extending my hand forward to turn the handle, the air suddenly escaped my entire body. The door grew further away from me as an invisible force levitated me off the floor and pulled me back hindering my escape.
But then I woke up again and this time I made it to the door. And down the stairs. In circle my three roommates sat playing some card game. They ask me what I’m doing. I ask them what that sound was, referring to the scream I let out a few moments before. The question was genuine as I did not recognize the scream as coming from myself or did not want to admit it. They tell me there was no sound, and that they urgently must finish their game.
Then I was up again, in the same room. I’m too afraid to leave my bed this time and listen for any commotion from downstairs. Giggles and the shuffling of cards alerted me that they are indeed still down there playing their game. So again I make my way downstairs determined to get some answers from them. I tell them I’m afraid because I thought our previous conversation was a dream. They hardly seem to notice me this time. One of them looks up at me, smirks and asks me if I’m dreaming.
For the fourth time I wake up in my bed in the same room. I reach for my phone to check the time but one the screen I notice something deeply unsettling. No home screen, but instead what looks like a camera feed… of my room. A security camera in the corner of my room transmitting live feed of my own to my phone in my hand as I sit in my room. In the feed I see myself and the sense of terror crescendos as I noticed a dark figure standing beside my bed.
For the last time I wake up and immediately spring out of bed and look at myself in the mirror. My eyes are white, my skin is burned black like charcoal and my teeth have fangs. I begin to growl at my own reflection and at myself as I smash my head into the mirror repeatedly.
Then I woke up in the same place as the previous five times only this time it’s real. I didn’t go to sleep again that night.
Although this is not my first experience I had involving REM sleep going awry, it was by far the more terrifying and memorable. After this experience, I began to read into the neuroscience of dreams. I discovered that this particular experience is what’s known as a false awakening and that I have experienced other forms of abnormal dreaming by various other names.
This experience sparked by interest in the under researched topic of REM sleep pathologies, a topic I’ve been dedicated to since. Though my research gave a name to some of the things I’ve been through, it ultimately raised more questions than answers. Neuroscience is never clear cut or easy, the complexity of the human mind is too vast and we are all unique as it is. More questions than answers. But I’ve come to believe that research exists for the purpose of showing us what questions there are to be asked, not to answer every question we have.
That is my goal with this assignment concerning abnormal dreaming. Sharing my research, experience and promoting a search for new and better questions to ask.