High Zeo Scores, Big Dreams

High Zeo Scores, Big Dreams by Kelly BulkeleyThe week before Thanksgiving I went on a family vacation to Mexico, just as I did last year.  My two all-time highest Z scores have come from these vacations–123 on the second night of the trip last year, and 125 on the first night of the trip this year.  Both times I was in a big sleep rebound mode, having slept poorly the previous few nights before traveling.  Both times I was in a very dark room and had absolutely nothing to do when I woke up.  In the 15 months I’ve used the Zeo, these were the most predictably opportune times for a maximal amount of sleep.  I’m glad to see the Zeo technology is capable of accurately representing the distinctive features of these kinds of unusual sleep experiences. 

My next highest Z scores came the two nights afterwards in both cases–116 and 116 following the 123 last year, and 116 and 115 following the 125 this year.  That third night this year, with the 115 Z score, I woke up from a very intense and elaborate dream.  I immediately looked at the Zeo clock–it was 3:33 am, which struck me as an odd bit of symmetry. 

I’ve transcribed the dream below.  It’s one of the longest I’ve had in quite a while.  Over the years I’ve had a few dreams similar to this, with an epic cinematic feel and lots of reality/perspective shifting.   My phobia about New York City is on full display here! 

Looking at my Zeo sleep graph for that night, I see that entered a REM phase at 2:25 am that lasted until 3:20 am.  Then I entered a brief period of deep sleep until 3:25 am.  After another bit of REM sleep at 3:30 am I was awake by 3:35 am.

I’m usually done with my deep sleep by midnight or 1 am, so it’s unusual to see the 3:25 am deep sleep.  Since dreaming is usually associated with REM sleep and stage 2 NREM sleep (part of light sleep for Zeo purposes), I wonder if  a) my dream came during the long REM phase ending at 3:20 am, or b) it was all condensed into the short REM phase at 3:30 am, or c) I started dreaming during the long REM phase and kept dreaming through the dip into deep sleep, back into REM and then awakening at 3:33. 

If it were true that the dream continued from REM through the deep sleep phase and back into REM, perhaps that might be related to some of the dramatic shifts and metamorphoses appearing at various points in the dream narrative.

Trying to Escape in New York City

I’m in New York City, walking down a street crowded with people….I go into a weird alley area….fences and garbage and strange people….I see a guy hunched up behind a garbage can in the shadows….I try to get back to the regular street, but to do so I have to climb through a hole in the fence, then try climbing up and over another fence….it has barbed wire at the top, so I’m stuck….as I try to do all this, I get in worse trouble, the bad guys see me caught up….Then I go to an inside place where the top bad guy is sitting at a table….there’s no way for me to escape….they’re laughing and talking, and I join in, but there’s a sense of menace in the air, I’m very scared….at one point one of the guys grabs at my balls, I jump back in alarm….they have total control over me….then cops come after the bad guys, and we all flee….it becomes an endless chase, with me trying to get away….but I can’t….at one point I find myself watching the filming of a Clint Eastwood movie about World War II, with planes swooping over a big canyon area and shooting at soldiers below….it’s like this place belongs to Mayor Bloomberg, he’s letting them use it for the movie?….Then I see Japanese guards with pick axes attacking people….they’re coming after me, too?….I run….at some point there’s a parade through the NY city streets….My friend E. is in the parade, he goes forward with the rest, with a big truck behind him….I keep running….we go inside buildings, and now I’m trying to help the bad guys; the cops are worse, they’re our mutual enemy….I could get away, but I’m part of the group now….it’s like we’re in a big department store….at one point we swing on elastic straps hanging down from the ceiling lights….we fly through the air, swinging around to get away….there’s a flashback to when the main guy lost his son to the cops?….that explains why he hates them so much….a few of us run down an escalator and hold it steady for the rest to come quickly, while I go ahead and find an emergency exit….but it turns out to be a weird orange or red room with people in it, like a party place….not an exit….so I go back out….I run through the garage of a fire fighters station, and think about taking their uniforms to disguise us….but no….then outside, we seem to have a moment where the cops don’t know where we are….I sit down at the table of a sidewalk cafe, with the top bad guy….other people just left the table, so we sit there as if we’re normal….the cops ignore us here…but the waiter knows the top bad guy….they’re lovers?….now the table is like a pool of water, and the top guy and I are floating in it….the waiter guy turns into a weird creature or machine, and he goes hunting/searching through the building for information to help us….At one point I drop my wallet, I see it back by a garbage can….I quickly dash down to get it before someone else grabs it….at another point I’m hiding behind a garbage can, just like the guy at the beginning….toward the end my wife is there, she’s skeptical and disapproving of all the mayhem and property damage that’s being caused….then it’s like the end of a movie….I miss the final credits, and I ask my daughter what the last line said….she says, “thus ends the tale of Don Quixote”….oh, I realize the whole thing has been an adaptation of the Don Quixote story….the main guy is Don Quixote, and some little guy is Sancho?….the end, which I’m watching rather than being in, involves the final destruction and death of all the bad guys from the cops, who are robots or machines now….no way to stop them, their dominance is inevitable….now the movie is over, we walk back through the rubble of the city….My mother-in-law is with us?….she and my daughter are walking fast ahead of us….I’m worried that we need to get out of here quickly, we’re in a weird city place that’s dark and filled with rubble, I don’t want to have trouble for real….

Patterns in Jewish Dreaming

Patterns in Jewish Dreaming by Kelly BulkeleyAs a follow-up to the previous post about religious and non-religious people’s dreams, I’ve looked more carefully at the responses of people who identified themselves as Jewish.  This is a much smaller group in my data set, with 131 participants (82 male, 49 female).  I’m more confident talking about the sleep and dream patterns of protestants (1130 people), catholics (575) and “other/nones” (1078).  But I don’t know of any other study of Jewish dreaming that includes even 131 participants, so it’s worth taking a look.

Compared to the others, Jewish people reported about the same amount and quality of sleep, somewhat lower dream recall but somewhat higher nightmare recall.  Jewish people were most likely to talk with family or friends about their dreams, a finding that may indicate the influence of cultural and religious beliefs. 

The survey included eight yes-no questions about “typical dreams,” asking “have you ever dreamed of:” falling, flying, being chased or attacked, sexuality, being in a situation exactly like waking life, being visited by someone who is dead, being aware of dreaming, and being able to control the dream. 

 Jewish participants had by far the lowest frequency of falling dreams.  They reported the lowest frequeny of dreams of flying, chasing, being in a situation like waking life, and dream awareness.   They were in the middle with the other groups on visitations from the dead, sexuality and dream control.

Based on this small sample it appearss that contemporary American Jews are relatively open in talking about their dreams with other people, but their personal dream lives tend to be moderate.

Religious and Non-Religious People: A Survey of their Dreams

Religious and Non-Religious People: A Survey of their Dreams by Kelly BulkeleyPeople who are not Christian and not religiously observant report higher dream recall and a higher frequency of most typical dreams. That’s one of the initial findings from a study I’m doing on the demographics of dreaming, based on survey results from 2992 American adults.  Most religious traditions regard dreams as spiritually significant.  But the people who are most engaged with their dreams in present-day America tend to be those who are not affiliated with mainstream Christianity and who rarely or never attend worship services.

Compared to Protestant and Catholic Christians, people who answered “Other/None” to the question of their religious affiliation reported the highest frequency of dreams of chasing, sexuality, falling, flying, and being able to control their dreams.  Similarly, people who never attend religious worship services have higher dream recall and higher frequencies of many types of dreams as compared to people who attend worship services once a week or more.  These findings are consistent with the results presented in chapter 3 of my 2008 book American Dreamers:

“Non-religious people report more of every type of dream, especially sexual dreams.” (91)

That finding came from a survey in 2007 of 705 American adults.  The appearance of the same pattern in the 2010 survey suggests the correlation may be worth pursuing for the new light it can shed on the psychology of religion.

The new survey has the advantage of including narrative dream reports from many of the participants.  I’m just beginning to sift through this data using word searches and other methods of analysis.

Here are a couple of short nightmares from the “Other/None” people who never attend worship services:

“I often have nightmares about spaceships, or unknown forces coming across a horizon, often with a sense of impending doom. The anticipation of death lasts and lasts and lasts…eventually i wake up.”

“I was being chased by a huge blob monster that looked like purple jello. I shot it with a rifle, but it broke up into several monsters. I ran into a house that looked like a Disney castle, and it swallowed the house.”

Here are two from Born-again Christians:

“I was falling in a fast freefall with no end in sight and as I went further I know I was trying to scream but only a low gutteral sound was coming out. I heard myself make that noise and sat up sweating and scared.”

“I was chased and attacked by demons. I tried to “rebuke” them in the name of Christ, as I’ve heard you should do in real life if ever confronted by demons, but they just kept coming toward me. They were hitting me, throwing me around and otherwise tormenting me. I woke up in a cold sweat; only time I can remember that happening. I was a teenager at the time, but I was so freaked out, I woke up my mother. She came and slept in my bed the rest of the night.”