Discuss: Dream a Little Dream of Me

Feb 15, 2013

Ever since I was very small, I’ve had the most vivid dreams and nightmares.  I can’t remember much from when I was four years old, but I remember a recurring nightmare that I used to have when I was that age.  My Father tried to teach me how to change my dreams, but it only works some of the time.

A few years ago, I started having a recurring nightmare that has always terrified me beyond words.  

In the dream, I’m asleep in my bed when I hear two men talking in the living room.  They’re clearly searching for something, because they keep asking each other if they’ve “found it” or looked in certain places for it.  And there I am, lying in bed, wondering how I get to the phone and the pistol I keep in the nightstand without alerting them to the fact that I’m awake, when I wake up from the dream.

There I am, lying in bed grateful that it was just another nightmare when I realize that I’m not lying in my bed alone.  In the dream, I can feel the heat radiating from a person lying next to me.  A person who is not supposed to be there

I can smell his cheap cologne, overwhelming with the scent of wood chips.  I can hear his breathing.  And I’m holding perfectly still, just about to scream for help, when a man clamps his hand down over my mouth. A rough, calloused hand wearing a giant class ring with a huge orange stone.

That’s when I wake up for real.  Typically drenched and sweat and breathing like I just ran up the steps to the Capitol Dome in four inch heels.

Dreams this vivid and memorable are a normal occurence for me.  So I’m always shocked when people tell me that they never have nightmares or that they don’t usually remember their dreams.  My ex-boyfriend claimed that he couldn’t remember a single dream he had ever had, and used to say that if he had dreams like mine, he’d never have to go to the movies.

So today’s topic is fairly straightforward.  Do you remember your dreams?  Do you have nightmares?  Do you have the same recurring dream or nightmare?


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  1. readingcaphillstyleagain says:

    I am so sorry to hear about this horrible, recurring nightmare! This sounds about as bad a nightmare as I can imagine. I don't have any helpful suggestions. I just wanted to send you my sympathy and hope these terrifying dreams cease plaguing you!

  2. R says:

    I don't remember my dreams at all past about a minute after I wake up. I can only remember about two nightmares that stuck with me. One was being pursued by kidnappers, and another was my family trying to tell me that my mom had cancer.

  3. Yellowrose says:

    First off…Im so so sorry that you keep having that terifying, life like dream. Hypnosis can help you get in your subconscious and figure out what the dream is about and where it originated from. My mom (who has her PhD in marriage and famliy therapy) helped me through some tough dreams I used to have. A good professional can actually teach you to take a step back in your dream and help you to realize that what you are “watching/dreaming about” can be changed by your control. You can experience different levels of consciousness and still remain in control (with practice). Again, Im so sorry you are dealing with that. It sounds horrible 🙁

  4. Leigh says:

    I could have written the first part of this post myself. I had a recurring nightmare every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthday, Easter (any special occasion) when I was a little girl. One night it made me sleepwalk.

    I have an extrodinarily vivid imagination and photographic memory, so I do not watch anything remotely scary. It isn't a matter of 'if' it will come back in a dream or when I'm drifting off to sleep, it's a matter of when.

  5. Rory says:

    I've always had super memorable dreams. I still have dreams I can remember from when I was 4. They're super colorful and detailed and usually are a cityscape of some sort. It's the details that surprise me. There's one dream I constantly have that takes place in a rennovated historic hotel that became a shopping mall full of boutiques. I know what the crown moulding looks like, the pattern the wood floor is in, and just all sorts of other paticular, small details.

  6. JS says:

    While I haven't had it in a while, for many years I had a recurring dream about being in a car that drove off a bridge. The set up was always a little different, but the outcome the same. I always woke up just before hitting the water below.

  7. Mel says:

    I have pretty vivid dreams and nightmares, most of which occur when I am really stressed out. A lot of them have to do with me running (like physically running) from stuff and I usually wake up exhausted.

    Have you tried doing yoga before bed? Maybe being more relaxed will help you with those scary dreams.

  8. A says:

    I always have such memorable life like dreams- ever since I was a little kid! I used to tell my parents about them and it would freak them out so much they didn't like to hear me talk about it. Things such as someone breaking in, someone dying, me being kidnapped…all of it I remember in such detail that I wake up and have to think really hard about if it had happened. There's also not one trigger that causes these for me, some say when they're stressed it happens but for me it happens regularly.
    Glad to hear someone else is in the same boat!

  9. Jess says:

    I used to have one where I was flying, it was totally awesome. And then I got married and had a bunch of kids, and now I have a similar one to yours where I hear someone talking to my kids in their bedrooms. I can't say how many times I have bolted out of bed flying down the hallway ready to attack whoever is trying to get my kids. My oldest is almost 10 and I still have this dream all these years later.

  10. Karen says:

    I have vivid dreams. Most of the time, I forget them after I wake up, but I remember more than anyone else I know. I've had recurring dreams and I have continuation dreams, sometimes directly after and sometimes not for months or years. If I doze for even a couple of minutes, I dream. I've even had “psychic” dreams that predicted the future. If I wake up from a dream, I can often go right back into it when I fall back asleep.

    One time, I had sleep paralysis which is terrifying. I woke up, unable to move and felt like a person was holding me down. I tried speaking, but it came out as gibberish. As I spoke, the feeling of being held down lessened and disappeared and I was able to speak normally. Scary as hell.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Usually, I don't rememeber dreams more than 1-2 minutes after I wake up, although occassionaly I find myself thinking I or my roomate did something (insignificant, mundane things, like taking a huge box to recycling when there had never been a huge box in the apartment) that only happened in a dream.

    That being said, as an adult I have had exactly two dreams where I woke up sobbing and unable to convince myself that the hyper-realistic nightmare hadn't just occured, both of which happened several years after my mom's death.
    The first was when I was sleeping in a friends freezing basement on a ski trip with about 5 other people on various couches and bits of floor, and in this dream my Mom was there on this freezing basement floor bleeding and dying in my arms, and none of the people sleeping nearby would wake up to help me get her to a hospital or stop this bleeding. (needless to say, this was a difficult thing to explain to my friends why I woke up sobbing and screaming and HATING them in the middle of an otherwise fun trip, and couldn't just calm down and go back to sleep).
    The other was I had a dream I was on vacation in a different city, and ran into my Mom at a store. I followed her, she saw me, tried to run, but I found her again and she was telling me that her death was fake, it had all been an act so she could just go live a new life away from me and the rest of the family. No one was around when I woke up to convince me this was a dream, so I had to call my sister at 4 in the morning and make her tell me this isn't possible, because I couldn't convince myself that this hadn't happened.

    I'm quite glad these were isolated incidents, my brain's interpretation of real life and dream life is occasionally flawed, and clearly the dreams were not…constructive…ways for me to process grief.

  12. Monica says:

    I have very vivid dreams that play out like movies, with story lines, rather than running dreams or falling dreams you usually hear people talk about. I don't always remember every detail, but I usually remember the gist. And like a few other folks, I have dreams from my childhood that I remember as vividly today as if I just dreamed them last night, rather than 20+ years ago.

    I've also had dreams like someone else said that seemed completely mundane at the time, starring real people, where the events then happened. I don't have an explanation for that, since I've woken up from one of these dreams and thought about the occurrences. Then weeks or months later something happens in real life that triggers my memory of that dream, and what was so strange months before is now happening. If this is a mental trick, its pretty damn cool, whether you believe it or not.

    I don't, however, have recurring dreams, and your's sounds truly terrifying and horrible. I will sometimes wake myself up from bad dreams, or tell myself in my dream that its not real and pull away from the story line a little bit. But I think this is a technique I developed as a child, and it sounds like you've already given that a try.

  13. Suzanne says:

    I often have very graphic, violent nightmares, some as bad as yours. I get them and then have difficulty shaking the feeling they give me through the rest of the day. Typically, they are worse during stressful times in my life. Unfortunately, “cutting down on stress” isn't really an option. I guess having that understanding helps me deal with them a little better, though.

    My Dad used to tell me when I was a kid it was because I ate too much junk food. I think that's just something parents tell their children to get them to eat healthier, but I've recently read there's a real link to what you eat and your dreams. It might be worth a shot to make note of what you ate that night before you went to bed, and see if there are any reoccuring patterns.

  14. Laurel says:

    Whenever I've had a recurring dream topic, I make myself think about it before I go to bed and say “I don't want to dream about XX.” Usually works because I've brought the idea to the front of mind, and it's not lingering in my subconscious anymore.

  15. Amy W. says:

    Echoing what others are saying, I usually don't remember my dreams after being a wake for a little while but at least once a week I am struck with terrifying nightmares to the point where I have to wake my boyfriend up to calm me down. For the moments where I can still remember the dreams, I'm terrified to go back to sleep because the dreams might come back. Every so often (but far less often than me) boyfriend will also be struck with a nightmare so horrible that he wakes me up.

  16. CatG says:

    I used to have nightmares all the time, until I taught myself lucid dreaming. Anytime I am being chased, or dream there is something in my room, I made it my habitual action to attack whatever it is. So what happens now is I either wake up when I do that, or in the process of attacking recall I'm dreaming and switch the dream to something else.

  17. Erica says:

    I have sleep paralysis regularly. It is a really awful feeling. I feel like I'm trying to move and speak, but I cannot. I usually only have it if I am sleeping somewhere other than a bed, or in a strange position. I try to use the control technique where I tell myself that it is a dream and I can actually move. This seems to work some of the time, but I have to actually do it instead of panicking first. I have pretty vivid dreams about once a month. I often have dreams where I am really, really, really angry at someone and I am telling them off in a terrible way. It makes me think that I have unresolved anger at people in my life that I suppress. It so weird how a dream can affect you so much after you wake. The morning after a particularly vivid and active dream, I feel very out of sorts.

  18. Em says:

    I am in the same boat as your ex. I can probably count on one hand the number of dreams I've ever remembered having. 2 of those are nightmares, but the other ones that I can remember are very vividly detailed almost to the point where I didn't understand why I remembered those parts- like a movie that focuses on the shoes or the color of floorboard trim instead of the real action of the story line. lol

  19. ACE says:

    Monica and Karen, I've also had the same experience of mundane dreams being played out months later in real life. The first time I remember that happening was when I was 9 or 10 years old.

    I also have very vivid dreams. There are a few one-off nightmares that I've had that have stuck with me, but the dream that I have the most often is that my sister and dad are swimming in a large, murky pool, and then sea life starts surfacing in the pool (you know, narwhals, polar bears, whales, etc.). I have had that dream once or twice a year since I was a wee one. No idea what it's supposed to mean, but to this day I will not get in any sort of water where I can't see the bottom!

    I also tend to dream in the same “dreamscapes” – like a water park that I somehow “know” is supposed to be my high school, a warehouse that I “know” is my favorite bar, etc., but the storylines change. It's just the strange setting that remains the same.

  20. CynthiaW says:

    I have super-vivid, movie-like dreams – sometimes, I can even pick up where I've left off if I wake up and fall back asleep right away. I've also had recurring nightmares – although they've changed through the years and I've had limited success with taking control of the dream as well. I've even woken up, terrified and convinced that someone was in the room with me – fortunately, that hasn't happened in years.

    I've often wondered if the vivid dreams was connected to being a voracious reader or just having a vivid imagination – everyone who I know who has vivid, memorable dreams is both a big reader and has a wild imagination.

  21. Lindsay says:

    I have a very similar re-occuring nightmare like yours. I won't go into the long story, but I always wake up trying to scream. I stopped going to see scary movies for over a year and that helped subside the dreams somewhat. I still get them, just not as often (maybe once a week instead of every night). I have a very vivid imagination, and I often daydream during the day. I think dreams are very specific to each individual – I know people who too say they can't remember any of their dreams. But I remember mine so vividly that sometimes while I'm dreaming, I'm aware that I'm dreaming and I know what's going to happen next. Which makes it that much more terrifying.

  22. Becca says:

    I'm the same way!! I have really terrifying, extremely silly, or completely absurd dreams ALL THE TIME. They are feel very vivid and real. I can remember them the next morning. I still remember some of the particularly striking dreams I've have in the past. And sometimes my dreams are SO FLIPPING BELIEVABLE that I have a hard time remembering if they were dreams or real life. My boyfriend also says the same thing. He says he NEVER remembers any of his dreams. Weird. Maybe it's a female thing? Or something to do with hormones?

  23. AD says:

    I typically remember my dreams. I also have hypnagogic hallucinations that I thought were night terrors. I visited a sleep doctor and learned that night terrors are typically not remembered by the person having them, but they scare the living daylights out of anyone who watches the sleeper have one. Your recurring, realistic nightmare could very well be a recurring hypnagogic hallucination – as they are typically very, very realistic, you remember them, and you see/hear things happening in your actual bedroom/living room environment. They also typically happen within the first 30 minutes of falling asleep, while you're still in that grey area between sleeping and waking. My doc says they aren't stress related – which is what I assumed – but instead it's just a misfire of synapses in your brain. And it doesn't mean you're crazy. I take some medication before bed and that has mostly taken care of it. I know that's a lot ot sharing, but I hope that this info can help someone. I highly recommend seeing a sleep specialist if your dreams are affecting your waking hours as they were mine.

  24. Kallie says:

    I could have written this post about my dreams…..

    It's only started happening in the last 4-5 years, but awful nightmares on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes they are incredibly vivid and I know what's going one, and sometimes I just know something awful is about to happen to me. I usually wake up in a complete panic, drenched in sweat, and breathing rapidly. Sometimes I wake up because I'm laying stiff as a board in my bed trying to scream, but something in my dream kept me from screaming. And a few times a year my husband wakes me up because I'm thrashing and making so much noise in my sleep. He once became very alarmed because I started breathing rapidly and then just stopped…. If it goes on for much longer, I'll probably go see someone about it. The whole “stopped breathing” thing kind of freaked me out, especially because my husband is gone alot.

  25. MidwestChic says:

    Belle, I definitely feel your pain and the pain of other readers! I have two recurring nightmares, one I've been having since I was 9 or 10, and the other started a few years after that. The weird thing is, I can go months without having either nightmare, and then out of no where I can have one or two every night for a week… then they subside again. I have no idea what my trigger is, but I have done some research on what different parts of each nightmare mean. I haven't completely solved the problem; I thought learning more about the dreams would help them go away, but that wasn't the case. However, I am still interested in figuring them out somehow. I have found that my very low dosage anxiety medication has helped tremendously, but the meds sometimes give me insomnia. If its not one thing, its another… right?

  26. Cari says:

    I have vivid dreams almost every night, which I almost always remember in great detail, or rarely just random memories. My dreams are almost always anxiety, but not necessarily nightmares. I find I rarely am woken by my dreams and instead, just endure when things get ugly. A friend of mine has said he is able to gain awareness that he is dreaming while in the dream, but I've never had this happen. I have reoccurring dreams that involve dog attacks (stems from an actual event) which are different each time (breed and scenario) but I'm always attacked in some way (sometimes graphic, sometimes not). Furthermore, I've had two instances where I've mentally woken up (eyes open, etc) but my physical body has not woken up. Once I couldn't move at all (it felt like something was sitting on top of me) but I WAS awake (freaking out of course) and the second time only my lower body hadn't woke up and when I went to get out of bed, I literally fell out of bed (I never even felt my feet touch the floor, although I know they did…)

    Interestingly enough, I tried Paleo for awhile (still believe 100% in the principles just haven't been able to implement them successfully yet) – there was a particular time where I was 100% Paleo for two solid weeks and I didn't. dream. once. I'm not kidding. It wasn't just no memory, there were literally no dreams. I woke up each morning feeling like I'd had about 20 hours of sleep and a crazy sense of 'awakeness' – and I'm a morning person!

  27. Amanda says:

    I frequently have vivid dreams that I remember. Two that stuck with me that we're weird but cool were my teeth falling out (terrifying at the time) and being very big and pregnant. I was in college, (I don't have children and was not planning on being pregnant) I woke up startled but I'll always remember them.

  28. MC says:

    The past few months, I have been having the same recurring nightmare – where I dream that I wake up because of strange shuffling noises in the darkest corner of my room. I freak out, and then I wake up, relieved. After catching my breath, I suddenly discover that there actually IS someone in the corner of my room. This time, more of a body outline, I can see that he is dressed like an old fashioned detective, and I see red glowing eyes.

    Usually the fake waking up happens only twice, but on occasion it'll be more and I get stuck in this terrifying cycle. I actually, truly wake up when I start trying to beg for the person not to hurt me – I can sort of hear myself talking in my sleep and that snaps me out of it because I will push my voice loud enough to wake up for real.

  29. Spiritmom says:

    I used to dream of home intruders when my husband was out of town. I would wake up completely terrified and could not go back to sleep. I made index cards with Bible verses on them about fear (2Timothy 1:7 for instance) and started turning on the light and reading those cards. The fear would melt away. I haven't had those dreams in years. It's worth a try.

  30. Laura says:

    I also have very vivid dreams and I can still remember dreams from years ago. In college I had a re-occurring nightmare about my sister dying. When we first moved our daughter from our room to her own room at 4 months old I had a constant nightmare about someone breaking in her room and stealing her. And I do often have nightmares about people breaking into our house. Interestingly my husband never remembers his dreams or has nightmares. Maybe it is a female thing?

  31. Amanda says:

    I have what I call video game dreams pretty frequently. I'm always running from zombies/ people trying to kill me and they are always incredibly vivid. These happen 3-4 nights per week. I always remember my dreams pretty well though. My worst nightmares are always paranormal based (I've watched Paranormal Activity too many times) and I wake up completely freaked out and unable to go back to sleep. It's amazing what our subconscious is capable of!

  32. Jill says:

    Wow, Bella, I'm sorry to hear you've got such horrible dreams. I have to second the poster who suggested you may be having night terrors or something other than a typical nightmare. I had a friend in college who suffered from night terrors (she called them that, I'm not giving any clinical diagnoses here). Her recurring night terror was that rats had invaded her dorm room and were climbing all over her. The key qualities of the night terrors were 1) she thought the terrors were really happening (always took place where she was sleeping, not in a strange or fantasy location), 2) she usually experienced many senses of the terror (feeling or smelling the rats) and 3) she also woke up screaming, trembling, and sweating.

    My friend had some health issues linked with the night terrors (breathing issues), so it might be worth checking with your doctor to see if there's an underlying medical issue here.

    You are most definitely not alone!

  33. A.J. says:

    I have pretty vivid dreams, and while some of them are stressful I rarely have full blown nightmares that really rattle me. I do regularly dream about needing to run/walk (not necessarily being chased) and I just.can't.move. Like my feet are in cement. Then you have the complete opposite end of the spectrum (and these dreams are actually fun) where I have like trampoline feet and can make really huge running strides and jump extremely high. I also have had regular dreams (different settings, but one was a jungle) of swinging on ropes/vines Tarzan style between trees. The biggest thing I remember is that floating feeling at the top of the arc. Super weird. But I'm thankful I have “fun” dreams pretty often. My mom has night terrors and wakes up screaming, which of course terrifies my dad.

  34. Yellowrose says:

    LOVE your advice Spiritmom 🙂

  35. Ella says:

    Over 99% of my dreams are nightmares. The 1% are neutral dreams. I don't recall ever having a “good” dream in my life.

    My nightmares are also quite vivid and almost always about someone trying to kill me. Surprisingly, I sleep very well despite these nightmares.

    I don't have any recurring nightmares now, but for about 12 years, I had a recurring dream that my I (and often also a friend or two) was being chased through a maze of fire. I never knew who or what was chasing me, how I would escape, or how it might end- good or bad. That one was pretty awful. I finally stopped having it, but since then, my nightmares have become much more gruesome.

    I've always wondered if having these kind of nightmares as an adult is cause for concern (about physical or mental health), but Ive never been worried enough to seep help.

    Good topic, Belle.

  36. PS says:

    I don't really have nightmares on a regular basis, but have had some when I'm super stressed about things in life. Growing up, I had a recurring dream where I'd see myself jumping in the middle of a field, and I'd keep jumping higher and higher till I got above the tree line and could see the entire city from far up above. And I had some strange sneakers on that helped me jump up high. I stopped having that dream as life got more complex in my 20s and 30s. For the last few years, I'm sure I've had some dreams but I don't remember any after waking up.

  37. Amanda says:

    That dream sounds terrifying. I have always had strikingly vivid dreams – when retelling to friends I can even remember what the wallpaper looks like. I also have recurring dreams, but luckily I remember them while sleeping so I either know what to do or what to change. There is one dream I have when I am extremely stressed out that I can't seem to shake and it freaks me out every time. I'll be sitting in the kitchen of the house i grew up in talking to a member of my family. I sound very cross in my dream, but not at them, about something that has already happened. And then, I will cup my hand to my mouth and spit my teeth out. Not like dentures, either. Tooth by tooth. It is my worst.

  38. Vanessa F says:

    I have had dreams so vivid that I've smelled and tasted things that I've never smelled or tasted in real life. I also have nightmares when I'm really stressed or something major is changing in my life, even if it's a good change. If the dreams are just bizarre, I usually lose all memory of the dream within 5 minutes of waking up. The nightmares always stay with me though, like the one where I hit a little kid with my car and actually woke up crying 🙁 But I only have one reoccurring dream and I hate it because in it I discover all these clothes and shoes in my coset that I didn't know I had; I'm so disappointed when I wake up!

  39. Ashley says:

    I typically don't remember my dreams unless they're nightmares. I might remember them the instant I wake up, but then the memory fades. Sometimes I'm reminded about a dream if I come into contact with something I dreamed about though. I do also have this weird thing where if I fall asleep on my back (I'm a stomach sleeper) or roll over onto my back while asleep, I always wake up with the sense that I'm falling. When I was a child I had recurring nightmares and regular dreams and they lasted for the longest time, but I suppose I outgrew them.

  40. J says:

    Wow, I truly feel for you. When I was a child & teenager, I had vivid dreams. After having children, I have no memory of my dreams (I guess exhaustion is causing this). I sometimes will have nightmares but they are few and far between. Curiously, when I have a nightmare, I sometimes can hear myself saying “this is a nightmare” over and over and then I relax and wake up or drift into another dream. I have woken up panicky & breathing rapidly following a nightmare. I used to have a recurring dream but it was harmless. One week, many years ago, I had movie-like dreams & I woke up & could remember every detail vividly. I haven't dreamt like that since. Have you looked into getting your nightmare analyzed? Maybe the nightmare is a manifestation of something that happened in your life or someone close to you (not literally).

  41. Sarah says:

    I remember all of my dreams for at least a few hours after waking up. Almost all are “good” dreams (about everyday life, people I spend my real-life time around, etc), but I have had two recurring nightmares my entire life.

    In the first, I wake up from a deep sleep in an endless room with glowing white walls. I am surrounded as far as I can see by ballerinas spinning on pointe, each of which are about 9 feet tall. I am a little girl, and can hear my father being beaten by a group of men nearby. Every time I pass a new row of dancers, the sound shifts to another side of the room…I start to run away, and the dancers stop spinning and start chasing me. It is scary. as. hell.

    The other nightmare is that I'm in a large old Colonial-style house, and I'm looking for something to keep myself alive…I know that I'll recognize it as soon as I find it, but I can't remember what it is. Over the past few years, every time I have the dream, I've been able to go further into the house, through secret passages and doors, but have never been able to find what I'm looking for…I feel someone grab my shoulder, and I wake up.

    Since these are so unpredictable, I've never thought about therapies to try controlling them…I usually wake up in a panic, but it's not nearly as bad as some of the situations I'm reading about in the comments….I feel awful that so many of you deal with these horrible nightmares!!!

    In other news, I'm too scared to fall asleep now!

  42. kt says:

    As a young child, I had a recurring nightmare. In the dream, my parents were throwing a party at our house. I was supposed to be in bed, but I woke up and was looking for my parents. I couldn’t find them anywhere, and every time I found someone familiar, they morphed into monsters. Now I just have nightmares about forgetting to do things at work, which is far more stressful than any monster I could create in my imagination…

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