I feel like blogging my dreams is sort of frivolous, but it's also an interesting exercise in a kind of writing I don't usually do. So: I had two interesting dreams last night. I remember waking up from the first one thinking it was interesting and significant, but I went back to sleep and forgot the actual dream.
The second dream began with a friend showing me a hidden entrance to a nondescript Berkeley building. I went inside and found that the interior of the building was a setting for an elaborate puzzle game. Each room of the building contained a puzzle based around some eclectic collection of objects; there were 20 such rooms/puzzles and I was given a limited time to complete them all. There was a sheet of paper on which I kept track of which ones I'd completed. (Maybe including the answers to the puzzles, which would solve some overall puzzle when the whole thing was done? My memory of what was on the paper in the dream is hazy.)
Anyway, I'm pretty sure I dreamed multiple rooms of this, and fast-forwarded through most of them, but at some point I arrived at room #17 (having finished the first sixteen) with some extra time on the clock. Room 17 contained a stereo cassette player and a stack of 20 cassette tape cases, none of which contained cassettes. The covers were all for classical music; I specifically remember Beethoven and Schubert among the composers, and no composer appeared twice.
The actual cassettes were in a box nearby, but the labels had been removed and replaced with small handwritten numbers from 1 to 20. The puzzle, obviously, was to match the tapes to their proper case by listening to them. So I started going through them one by one, trying to identify composer or at least time period by the musical style, and looking for pieces that I recognized.
This was a slow process, and I became aware that time was slipping away. I was debating whether to skip ahead to Room 18, in the hopes of finishing the later puzzles and coming back for this one, when I woke up.
So it was sort of anti-climactic, but I thought it was interesting that my dream came up with at least one realistic and difficult but possibly doable puzzle. And I was quickly able to think of a very specific interpretation for this dream, but there is probably some bias on my part towards reading things this way. So other interpretations are welcome.
So: sleep paralysis. A condition in which, upon waking, a person is aware of the surroundings but is unable to move. Anyone here experienced this?
I ask because I had an experience like this last night that has a lot of the characteristics of sleep paralysis. I (apparently) woke up, lying on my side, and realized that I couldn't move. I remember the sense of trying to move and being locked in place was very vivid and not dreamlike. I thought to myself, "Oh, this must be sleep paralysis." Then I remembered that sleep-paralyzed people usually feel another presence in the room, often a malevolent one, and I should expect this. At that point my experience got much more dreamlike. I had an awareness of my surroundings, but it wasn't my actual surroundings—instead I dreamed I was in a hotel room, and there was a dresser with a TV across from the bed. So I'm expecting a malevolent presence to show up, and, well, remember in Ghostbusters when Gozer is going to take the first form they think of? Yeah. Upon dreaming of the TV, I immediately think of Samara from The Ring, and right away I get the sense that Samara is indeed in the room with me (although I can't see her) and I get absolutely terrified—a wave of total mind-numbing fear that also wasn't very dreamlike. At some point thereafter all this dissipated and I realized that I wasn't in a hotel room, but in my own bedroom, and I could move again.
Going down the list in the Wikipedia entry it seems likely that this really was sleep paralysis. Apparently the dream can continue through the experience. Also, the mechanism where the dream generates explanations for what's happening, i.e. Samara and the TV, is similar to my experiences with hypnic jerks: when my leg undergoes a hypnic jerk, I almost always have a very short dream in which I am tripping over something or slipping on ice, in a way that explains the motion. (Annoyingly, the motion itself wakes me up.)
Something else that occurred to me while thinking about this is that, while I haven't experienced the paralysis before, it's not uncommon for me to get the fear and sense of presence without the paralysis: specifically I will wake up already out of bed and standing up, and filled with a sense of absolutely imminent doom, that I need to escape right now. It usually takes a few minutes before I realize that nothing's wrong, except that I'm standing in the middle of the bedroom at 4:30 in the morning with my heart running at 120 beats per minute. This seems to happen maybe once every few months (that I remember). (This happened the night before I left Caltech for Berkeley, and I actually jumped out of the loft, waking up approximately when I hit the ground. I'm amazed I didn't break anything.) I always figured I was waking up from some nightmare (that I never seem to recall) but now I wonder if it's related to sleep paralysis.