Sleep, dreams and nightmares

During the last few years I’ve had recurrent dreams about my parents, either that they were still alive or were significantly less disabled than at the end of their lives. I’ve also had some pretty scary nightmares where I’ve been in a position of lack of control in what would otherwise be normal circumstances.

The strangest thing is that these have increased in recent weeks, but seem considerably more frequent when I sleep on my left side. I initially dismissed this as nonsense but searching revealed articles which supported this.

Could it reflect ‘handedness’ and differences in brain perfusion depending on sleeping position?

It’s really very bizarre and a few times this week on half-term break I’ve woken after quite unpleasant dreams and have felt anxious about going back to sleep, though am probably getting far more sleep than usual - alcohol/food consumption probably unchanged.

A recurrent theme in my dreams is that I am always late…

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That’s just life for me! Last minute for many many things, though I never used to be like that - odd.

I’d give an example with appointments - I pay for tennis lessons but am consistently late even if I have hours beforehand to get ready (hence I get a shorter lesson but pay the same) - just think I try to cram in too many domestic tasks and then end up in a pickle when I can’t find the gym kit, clean socks etc others would have put in teh bag the day before. Disorganised to many, just a perosnality trait really.

Weird coincidence but this week I was doing some work with second year medical students which I do on an annual basis.

I tell my health story and then field questions. Educational and clearly often stunning for them and cheap therapy for me. It’s always more interesting when I get asked a question I’ve not been asked before. Had a cracker on Thursday.

One of the features of my VI is that I’m out of focus even when I think I’m not. So, the question was “are your dreams also out of focus?”.

Never even occurred to me before. On reflection I think they are. I’ve no objective way of proving this and have yet to compare notes with friends with same. I’ve no idea whether in fact everyone’s dreams are out of focus. Got lots of questions for my eye research friends now.

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Your heart is on the left side, so if you are blocking certain arteries by lying on your left arm/shoulder more and restrict the bloodflow, this can lead to increased ‘panic’ while sleeping. If you are perhaps a bit more stressed than usual, that can also contribute to a more tense/unnatural sleeping position, which can potentially influence the problem.

When you woke up at night, have you experienced any stiffness or tension in your arms or hands?

The heart is only slightly to the left. If it was a balance control it would be 11 o’clock or so :slightly_smiling_face:

Cheese always gives me wired dreams! No cheese ‘n’ crackers for supper for me :scream:


I used to think the same, although the Doctor on Sunday Brunch last week said it was just a myth. Not tested it since hearing though - best to stay cautious.

Yes i know, but the main arteries on the left side are closely connected to it (arm/shoulder/neck). I’ve had a similar issue as @Alley_Cat myself, which i traced back to some of the points i mentioned above…

VI? Sorry is probably obvious, I’m thinking visual something unless it’s a viva?

Sorry, visual impairment :slight_smile:

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Got it, you’ve mnetioned this before - acronyms are useful but often ambiguous!

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VI?! That’s the most loved editor used by unix admins! :joy: Got to love acronyms. I have learnt a few here IIRC. :wink:

Back to OP, one of my strangest dream was waking up sweaty thinking I have music exam and I didn’t study, didn’t know. It was so real, I had to think and assure myself I don’t study music, not at uni anymore and no more exams.

My last dream involved a few people from work and social life. So far-fetched I knew it was fake by the end of it.


You need to step up the booze intake, old chap.

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Yes. Sleeping on the left side will activate the right hemisphere of the brain, which is the creative side.

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I’m in the process of reading Alice Robb’s ‘Why We Dream: The Science, Creativity and Transformative Powers of Sleep’. A book I would never normally read, but doing so after Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ . It gives some good descriptions of the purpose of sleep and dreams. Relies a lot on case descriptions rather then more robust methods, but the themes that run through it are interesting and do make you think. Worth a read.

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I loved the Walker book although it was pretty sobering in places in terms of the impact of the sleep I do get. Fascinating to read in Stuart Ritchie’s Science Fictions book just how wrong Walker was on a few things though in terms of data interpretation.

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What book is that? I’ll give that a read next.

To illustrate this a bit, i’m tracking my sleep and here is a comparison from when i had similar problems as @Alley_Cat , and after i made changes to my sleeping position:

Before, sleep time was long but there was little deep (restorative) sleep. REM sleep was very long and often caused vivid dreams and sometimes unrest:

After, total sleep time is shorter but a lot more balanced, 1.5 hours of restorative sleep and 2 hours of REM sleep:

The main change i have made is to experiment with different pillow heights to provide a more natural sleeping position, with less constriction of bloodflow and less tension (i also sleep mainly on my left side).

For my situation this mainly meant using a significantly flatter pillow than before (8-10cm instead of 13-15cm). The higher pillow caused two problems, it put more strain on my neck, and it compressed my left arm and torso more into the mattress, causing more pressure and constriction in that area.

For me it has made an improvement in sleep quality, it may or may not help for others as well to experiment with this if they have similar issues…