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Dementia and Lucid Dreams

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

Every night without fail, my sleeping head is filled with vivid, powerful dreams. Most of the time, I am aware that I am dreaming and can exert a small amount of influence over the direction of the dream story. I have only observed this behaviour in myself over the last year or so. It is not in any way frightening.

My dreams are realistic and immersive. People and events from my past and present mingle with each other in places and situations both existing and fantastic. Heroic deeds are done. Cruel, barbaric acts are carried out by others. Or sometimes I'm on my own, an observer of events, unable to influence their outcome. My dream self is cool in command, loyal as a follower, selflessly brave and generous. Sometimes in my dreams I'm naked (I'm not sure what that says about me), and somehow, there will be cues in my dream stories that wake me if I need the loo or a drink, or even when I am about to experience one of my frequent bouts of nocturnal cramps. Sometimes, I whisper, talk or even shout in my sleep, and I thrash about. I'm afraid to say that I've accidently punched, slapped and kicked my wife while fighting dream assailants.

I easily return to a dream if woken up. Indeed, I can resume a dream in episodes night after night. I have never had such control over my dreams. It's as if dementia has handed me a remote control!

Many times, I have woken from my sleep with a scrap of poetry a topical quote or an idea in my head that I am compelled to write down and I have to hop out of bed and scribble on the whiteboard on my kitchen wall. These snippets from my subconscious have proven very useful and have pushed me through many cases of "writers block". I've learned to value them. The downside is that I often wake up more tired than when I went to bed.

Experts agree that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is associated with dreaming. This stage of sleep and deep slumber is when you’re most likely to lucid dream. Usually the first REM sleep cycle happens within 70 to 120 minutes of a person falling asleep, and lasts around five minutes in some individuals, but as it gets closer to the morning, you tend to spend more time in REM sleep; hence the dream state we often experience around waking time. REM sleep is supposed to be one of the most restorative stages of sleep, where it helps with your memory and cognition. Why is it then that I feel so exhausted by it?

A Nature magazine article showed that frequent lucid dreaming is associated with increased functional connectivity between the frontopolar cortex and temporoparietal association areas. I wonder therefore, if my brain is busy creating new links while others deteriorate and die. Do YOU have lucid dreams or moments of inspiration while sleeping? Please let me know your experiences.

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