Posted-By: auto-faq 188.8.131.52 Archive-name: dreams-faq/part2 Revision: version 1.4, last cha
Dreams FAQ Pt.2/4: Nightmares, OOBEs, paranormal issues
Dreams FAQ Pt.2/4: Nightmares, OOBEs, paranormal issues
Posted-By: auto-faq 184.108.40.206
Revision: version 1.4, last changed 1994/09/18 23:59:48
This is the second in a series of four postings of Frequently Asked
Questions for the alt.dreams and alt.dreams.lucid newsgroups. It
contains stuff on nightmares and related topics, and something about
OOBEs and "paranormal" issues.
3. Sleep paralysis, night terrors, nightmares
3.1. What causes sleep paralysis?
A. Conventional wisdom: REM atonia is a normal function of the body.
The muscles that move the body are "turned off" during REM sleep,
which prevents you from acting out dreamed actions in reality.
Non-REM sleep paralysis after waking up ("old hag") is caused by a
failure to re-activate the muscles immediately. Normally this
condition lasts only a few seconds, but sometimes it can go for a
minute, which causes a very scary feeling. You are damn sure you're
awake now but you can't move. This is extremely unpleasant but at
least not dangerous.
3.2. What causes nightmares?
A. There is the dark side of dreams - nightmares, dreams of fear,
pain, irrational bad feelings that often cannot be explained. These
can become a serious peoblem when you often wake up terrified, when
you even don't sleep because of fear of nightmares... Nightmares occur
mostly because some problem disturbs you unconsciously but
seriously. Some nightmares carry obvious symbols that may indicate
where your problems are, but often it is not that easy. Sometimes they
can indicate really serious problems like depressions, sometimes just
an inadequacy of getting along with yourself. It's difficult.
3.3. How can I relieve myself of these?
A. It's really hard to give an answer, since so much depends on
yourself. Moreover, it's always risky to give or follow advice on what
could be a serious problem from far away, and it's ultimately you who
has to decide whether it is just a nuisance you want to get rid of, or
if you really suffer from depressions or health problems and it is
necessary to consult professional help.
The common "light" nightmares of permanently missing exams, falling or
being chased can often be overcome with learning lucid dreaming (see
section 6). Basically, if you learn to deal with them, they are not a
problem anymore. Or, from a slightly different point of view, you're
facing the problems that cause your dreams and thus overcoming them.
3.4. What is a myoclonic jerk?
This term denotes a common experience with sudden contractions of the
big body muscles while falling asleep. This mostly causes a feeling of
stumbling, falling or similar and subsequently waking up again. The
exact cause is not known, it probably is some disturbance in the
brain's functions in the first stage of sleep. Surely it is common,
and does not cause serious problems unless it stops you from sleeping
(but then you have general sleeping problems as well).
[From: Corey Thompson <COREYT@vax1.mankato.msus.edu>]
In my Psycology class, the professor said something to like:
"...you're heart rate gets very slow, and and your breathing slows
down quicker than normal. You brain may interpret this as your body
dying, so it sends an electrical pulse to your muscles. Like a jump
start. This is similar to a Night Terror, when you wake up absolutely
terrified about something, but have no idea why...."
4. Out-of-body experiences
4.1. What are out-of-body experiences?
A. [This is a section of Jouni Smed' alt.out-of-body FAQ]
Out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) are those curious, and usually
brief, experiences in which person seems to himself to leave his body
and to observe the world from a point of view other than that which he
would have were he still 'in' his body. In some cases the experients
claim that they 'saw' and 'heard' things (objects which were really
there, events and conversations which really took place) which could
not have seen or heard from the actual positions of their bodies.
OBEs are surprisingly common; different surveys have yielded some what
different results, but all in all one would not be too far wrong if
one said that somewhere between one person in ten and one person in
twenty is likely to have had such an experience at least
once. Furthermore it seems that OBEs can occur to anyone in almost any
circumstances. They are most frequent during sleep, during
unconsciousness following anaesthesia or a bang on the head, and
during stress. Not all OBEs occur spontaneously. Some people have, by
various techniques, cultivated the faculty of inducing them more or
less as desired, and number have written detailed accounts of their
experiences. These accounts do not always in all respects square with
accounts given by persons who have undergone spontaneous OBEs.
OBEs, especially spontaneous ones, are often very vivid, and resemble
everyday, waking experiences rather than dreams, and they may make a
considerable impression on those who undergo them. Such persons may
find it hard to believe that they did not in fact leave their bodies,
and may draw the conclusion that we possess a separable soul, perhaps
linked to a second body, which will survive in a state of full
consciousness, perhaps even of enhanced consciousness, after
death. Death would be, as it were, an OBE in which one did not succeed
in getting back into one's body.
Such conclusions present themselves even more forcefully to the minds
of those who have undergone the variety of OBE known as a 'near-death
experience' or NDE. It is not uncommon for persons who have been to
the brink of death and returned -- following, say, a heart stoppage or
serious injuries from an accident -- to report an experience (commonly
of a great vividness and impressiveness) as of leaving their bodies,
and traveling (often in a duplicate body) to the border of a new and
wonderful realm. Reports suggest that the conscious self's awareness
outside the body is not only unimpaired but enhanced: events which
occurred during the period of unconsciousness are described in
accurate detail and confirmed by those present.
4.2. How do I find out more about out-of-body experiences?
A. There is a newsgroup dedicated to out-of-body experiences,
alt.out-of-body. firstname.lastname@example.org (Jouni Smed) maintains an
extensive FAQ file.
5. Paranormal issues
5.1. Do dreams predict the future?
A. This, like many other things commonly referred to as "paranormal",
is to be considered unknown. There is much evidence against it, it
would contradict the laws of nature as recognized by most scientists
today. (Any information getting from future to past would have to
break the speed of light, which is impossible. More on this can be
found in the sci.physics FAQ postings.) However, many people insist
on having experienced "deja-vu" like situations where they came into a
setting they already had dreamed of. Could they prove it? Probably
not (cf. section 5.3) but this fact alone doesn't prove the
experiences invalid. (Proving a subjective experience *wrong* is
Now, how come the many deja-vus? A common explanation is a small
misfunction of the brain. Some piece of information, like the look of
a particular place where you haven't been before, gets from short-term
into long-term memory via some sort of "shortcut" rather than the
usual rememberance mechanism. (How this exactly works is currently not
known in detail.) Then, when matching short-term against long-term
memory, you think that you have the piece in long-term memory from
somewhere in the past while it has entered long-term memory just
This could explain some of the instances, but the possibility of the
mind "travelling in time" (or place, cf. section 4.1) can not be
dismissed - many people claim they have done it and can do it again.
5.2. Can people share dreams?
A. Again, an unanswered question. Many people believe that such a
possibility exists, but the lack of a sufficient scientific
explanation is obvious. The often claimed experiences of this kind,
like in the above case, mostly are not thoroughly enough documented
and examined. It is rather plausible that people "meet in dreams" just
by dreaming *roughly* of similar things, and fuzzy memory does the
rest when they tell each other. (Write down your dreams!)
But again, whether actual telepathic interaction is possible remains
unanswered for now, and some people are doing research about it under
lab conditions. [There has been an institute for this at Freiburg
University in Germany; I've been told that it doesn't operate any
more, but perhaps I can collect some of their research, sometimes...]
One trivial case of interaction in dreams is people who sleep in the
same room talking to each other in their sleep. Yes, that does happen.
5.3. How can I tell actual paranormal experiences from self-delusion?
A. If you plan to prove actual paranormal experiences, most important
is that you are honest towards yourself. All efforts to match dreams
against real occurences are moot if they are reported after the fact,
since then it can't be proven any more that you actually dreamed this,
and are vulnerable to the argument that the recall of the dream is
just a self-delusion. So the most important thing is to write down all
of your dreams immediately. Make sure that no obvious external sources
of information have had influence on your dreams (i.e. don't sleep
with the radio on if you want to match dreams against news items.)
Don't interpret too much into your dreams in the moment you write them
down, log only what you really remember. When matching the dream log
against other things use only the log, not anything you think you
would remember from that particular dream. Remember that recall of a
dream gets worse with the time, not better. If you want to document
shared dream experiences, all people involved should follow these
strict standards. (Cf. question 7.3.) Refer to the sci.skeptic FAQ
for obvious traps you should not get caught in.
To be continued...
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank