This post is part of an ongoing series about what happens when an active dreamer goes in for a sleep study. Click here to read the first post in the series.
My doctor ordered a sleep study for me to see if I had sleep apnea or another condition that was degrading the quality of my sleep and leaving me feeling tired and worn down by day. But I had a question of my own: “Is all my dreaming exhausting me?”
The stakes were high. I have always valued my active dream life (recalling several dreams each morning—usually in vivid and abundant detail). My dreams inspire poems, help me make decisions, comfort me in times of despair, and give me fresh perspectives on my daytime experiences. “But what if the solution to your sleep woes is a course of treatment that diminishes your dreams?” one doctor asked me early on. I decided that was something I’d have to risk.
Interesting results–but not in a good way
And now, at last, the results of the sleep study are in. (Hold the drum roll, prepare instead for anti-climax.) Other than a fair amount of snoring (who, me?) it appears I have no sleep-related conditions of concern.
Good news, yes. But was the report satisfying? Not at all.
The process of undergoing a sleep study in and of itself was interesting—but not necessarily in a good way. I found myself immersed in a system that values sleep, but that seemed to devalue dreams, ignoring them except as possible symptoms of sleep disorders.
As the weeks between my initial intake, the study itself, and awaiting the results wore on, I began to question my own thinking and long-held beliefs: Was it possible that the dreams I so cherished, relied on for guidance, wisdom, healing, and comfort, were nothing more than a symptom of some sleep disorder or pathology? I asked this question to myself, and posed it in one of my blog posts as well.
One of my long-time readers and friends replied to that post, saying in a comment what I’ve always known, but needed to be reminded of: “Your dreams are not symptoms of illness nor are they a defect—they are a gift.”
5-pages and an insight
The 5-page report of my sleepless night in the sleep lab indicated that I was asleep for about 7 hours. This didn’t match up with my experience at all, where I noted in my journal that I slept about 3-4 hours in total all night long. When I raised this discrepancy with the doctor I was working with, she said that it’s possible to be sleeping lightly and conscious at the same time. In any case, this twilight sleep, if sleep it was, is so different from my normal sleeping experience that it didn’t seem worthy of too much attention. In fact, I slept so poorly at the sleep lab that I can learn little about my sleep or dream life from the experience.
But from a medical point of view, doctors were able to measure my heartbeat, body movements, and brain waves to determine what they were after: No apnea, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. No explanation, in short, for my daytime drowsiness.
The doctors can’t say whether the nighttime dreaming I do is affecting my ability to achieve adequate rest, despite getting 71/2-8 hours of sleep a night. I suppose the culprit could well be the multitude of daytime dreams I pursue.
Either way, I’m going with my friend’s advice:
If the dreams do make me tired, so be it! They are extraordinary gifts that add meaning and interest to my life. So if you see me yawning during the day, don’t take offense, and don’t be concerned—I’ve decide that some daytime drowsiness is worth the price of admission to a wonderful world of dreams.
To read the entire series about a dreamer’s experience in the sleep lab:
Click here to read the first post in the series.
Click here to read the previous post in the series.
To read more about my adventures in being my own sleep scientist, click here.