By Cameron Hernandez and Logan Fitzsimons
What happens when you surrender to REM sleep? Would you say that you have dreams in this precious hour of night? Do you dream too much, too little? Sometimes it feels as if dreams are immersive Dadaist landscapes in which nothing makes sense and you must surrender to the illogical plot line and let it unfold. Other times, they’re too grounded in reality and are uncomfortably obvious symbolisms for whatever stressors you deal with in life. Do you believe dreams have any benefits, or that they can be read for meaning? Have your visits to the land of slumber been affected by COVID-related stress? Or have you been sleeping like a rock? It seems as if many people’s relationship to dreams is inspired by their values and culture, whether self-generated or inherited. Maybe you share a deeply spiritual cultural belief that they’re considered to be messages from ancestors or those in the afterlife? Or perhaps you think dreams are all a meaningless sham? Either way, I always like to ask people in my life if they’ve had any dreams recently. It’s a check-in question that’s fun for the whole family.
What has the Matchbox team been dreaming of recently?
Logan weighs in first:
I am partial to the theory that dreams are just the mental detritus from your conscious life that are being processed out by your brain. However, I still think there’s a lot that can be taken from them. Sometimes it can help me look at an idea differently. Or, more often than not, when I leave something time-sensitive and essential to do for the next morning (whether it’s not packing for a morning flight or not studying for an impending exam), I will do the task in my dream, thinking that it’s morning and it’s crunch time. Then, when I wake up and realize that while I didn’t actually complete the task, I now know exactly how to do it thanks to my anxious brain trying to solve this problem overnight. An example of this would be when I tried to replace the radiator support in my truck (which is a massive 3-foot-long piece of metal that holds the fan, radiator, front and fenders of the truck, and AC condenser onto the front) in less than 12 hours (when in all reality this is a 20+ hour job for an inexperienced amateur like myself). The night before I was supposed to achieve this insane feat, my dreams consisted of me taking it apart piece by piece, labeling all the bolts and parts, etc. The next day, I felt a lot less daunted, as I had already done it once. However, I did not get it done in time, so now my truck is rotting in my driveway. Perhaps I put too much faith into these nervous nightmares to predict how things are going to go. To me, they are simply a reflection of my cognitions, not a prediction for the future.
However, the processing of stressful things into ill-disguised dream plots can really be a hindrance, as sometimes it feels like when you have a second job. You clock out of your first job of being a conscious known individual and then must immediately clock into your second job of being an unconscious, yet, conscious, dreamer. Enduring all of the stress and emotions that come with these dreams can make it feel like you never really rested. I often wake with my body rested, but my mind is still working frantically. At least, these are the experiences that I’ve been having during this COVID year. After all, stress creates stress.
‘That sounds exhausting!’ you might say, and I agree. Anxiety dreams can be draining over time. I’ve found that I must take back my sleep time by having strict decompressing rituals at night and the morning after such events. Meditating, stretching, doing slow push-ups to get the anxious jitters out of my system, and drinking tea with honey before bed have all helped me soothe my still-working brain. Do you find your sleep-state also easily affected by anxiety over the day’s events?
Or perhaps, like Cameron, your unconscious adventures create their own anxiety?
Cameron illustrates this:
I also agree that dreams are usually reflections of cognitions, stressors, fears and desires. Also, I certainly don’t view my dreams as predictions for the future, because that would be an incredibly traumatic experience if some of my dreams were to come true (yes, I’m talking about those dreams, the unspeakable ones that will not erase themselves from your memory). The dreams that I find myself having quite often, or at least the ones that I remember, are those that are unsettling, like a family member dying or your partner cheating on you in an extremely graphic way. There have been many times where I’ve woken up very confused and concerned because of how vivid my dreams were the night before. But those disconcerting, anxiety-inducing, somewhat painful dreams are the ones that reveal the most about my mental and emotional states, which, as someone who is often too distracted to come to terms with certain feelings, can be very helpful. Those dreams are like little slaps of reality, whether I like them or not, I end up learning more about myself, which is a win for me at the end of the day.