Medical Q&As

Dream - very frightening?

I have a recurring dream where I am feeling paralysed in my bed and about to be attacked in some way. Through what seems like super human effort I manage to scream out and waken myself. For some time afterwards I feel utterly alone, frightened and desolate. Could I be reliving some childhood trauma?

Dream interpretation is a highly speculative activity and I would be very reluctant to embark upon an interpretation of the brief dream sequence you describe. If you were to engage in a trawling exercise on the Internet you could find such diverse explanations for your dream from alien abduction to repressed memory of child sexual abuse. Your experience may well be capable of simpler explanation. Each night when we dream we become partially paralysed during the phase of sleep known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is the phase of sleep when dreams occur. Paralysis during REM sleep has a protective function so that we donít get out of bed and act on our dream experiences, which can be extremely vivid. Usually when we waken the paralysis wears off but sometimes we may be partially awake but still in a state of paralysis. This tends to happen if we experience persistent fatigue and tiredness and the paralysis might simply be a sign that more sleep is needed. Alternatively this could be a sign of narcolepsy, which is a neurological condition characterised by excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control), vivid and often frightening dreams and the particular symptom of sleep paralysis that you describe. If you have any of the aforementioned symptoms it would be appropriate to visit your GP and discuss the matter further. If you donít have any of these symptoms maybe you should try and get more sleep.