Monday, July 23, 2007

False awakenings

I'm interested in the various tricks our brain plays on us while we sleep. Actually, "tricks" is not the best description -- I think a better description for such things as sleep paralysis and night terrors would be "bugs", as in software bugs.

I've never experienced either of those, but I have -- once -- experienced false awakening. I awoke in my bed early one morning. Although my bedroom seemed completely normal, exactly the way it should, there was something wrong: a subtle, uncanny, terrifying sense of wrongness. Nothing that I could see, or hear, but I knew, I just knew with every fibre of my being, that there was something dreadfully wrong and terrifying. The feeling grew and grew until I felt that my heart would explode, and then I woke up, in my bed again.

Except, there was something wrong, and again I was flooded by an overwhelming sense of dread -- until I woke again, in my bed.

This happened no less than six times, and each time I was lucid enough to realise that the previous time must have been a dream, but never enough to realise I was still dreaming. Only after I woke for the sixth time did I actually wake and realise the entire experience was a dream.

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli
The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781. See also here and here.

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