Saturday, December 19, 2009

Aspergers and Dreams

I've been asked on a few occasions to do a post on dreams and dreaming, so this is it. It's not an area I'm particularly familiar with because I've never really considered that dreaming may be different for aspies. I guess that any responses to this post will help us to find out.

Remembering Dreams
Some time ago, I did an unstructured and impromptu survey to find out whether aspies tend to remember or forget their dreams. I got a total of 52 responses which were allocated as follows;
  1. I Don't think that I Dream 1% [ 1 ]
  2. I Usually Remember my Dreams 44% [ 23 ]
  3. I know I've had a Dream but lose the details when I wake up 28% [ 15 ]
  4. I Can Remember my Dream for about 2 hours after Waking - then it disappears 25% [ 13]

I've always had fairly vivid dreams and surprisingly, I've remembered quite a few of them. My childhood dreams are still clear as crystal, it's my adult dreams that I don't remember as well.

Night Terrors and Nightmares
As a child, I often woke up with nightmares. These were quite often about being trapped in a cave by falling rocks. I'm not quite sure why this would be the case since I'd never been caving and I can't recall watching any caving films. There were other things too, like falling from the top of buildings but mostly it was to do with imagining things in the darkness of my room. I wonder if I had some issues with reality verus fiction.

In any case, the night terrors and my theory that it's more to do with a poor sense of reality is one of the main reasons I've been so "unrestricted" on censorship with my own children. For the record, although every once in a while the youngest has a bad dream, they certainly don't have night terrors. They're very clear on what's real and what's not.

I eventually overcame the night terrors by;
  1. Adopting my mother's belief that bad dreams were your body's way of waking you for a toilet break.

  2. Getting myself a bed lamp which I could reach out and switch on whenever I got scared.

Epic Dreams
When I wasn't having night terrors, it was simply normal dreaming. The best dreams were "epic dreams. Epic dreams were dreams which were so large and so complex that it took several nights to get the entire dream completed. They weren't always on sensible subjects and I can clearly remember one about a witches gathering (not scary, quite friendly actually) which went on for about a week. I can remember being eager to go to bed so I could see the next part of the dream. I loved dreaming about flying on a broomstick with a coven of witches and I was really sad when the dream ended.


Normal(?) Dreams
My normal dreams were always a bit weird and particularly in my childhood, they didn't focus so much on people as the mechnanics of things. I suspect that this might be one of the ways that aspergers manifests itself in dreaming.

One of the best dreams from my childhood was about going to visit my next door neighbour and discovering quite accidentally that if I made swimming motions with my hands and feet, I would actually be able to float in the air and control my direction. This particular dream was so vivid that I remember being anxious to rush outside and try it, just in case it really worked. (it didn't). It seems strange that so many of my dreams were about flying and falling.


Day Dreams
My mother always used to call me a "daydreamer". She was probably right but I don't see it as a bad thing. I think that a lot of my creativity comes from daydreaming.

My daydreams are very vivid and often I snap out of them wondering which bits were real and which were false. Occasionally, my daydreams turn to day-nightmares and they can seriously "freak me out".

Arguably the worst daydream I'd ever had was one where I clearly saw a nuclear payload drop from a plane. The daydream was so vivid that I felt heat on my face and could clearly remember the arguments my parents had about what to do.

For weeks afterwards, I watched every plane that flew past with something like dread in case it was a premonition. Since then, circumstances have changed (my parents no longer own the house in the dream), so I guess I can presume that it wasn't.


Your say?
There's not really a lot more I can say about my dreams. I've had quite a bit of deja vu but as usual, it's hard to "remember" what actually happens until it does actually happen. I don't see "deja vu" as premonition although I did when I was younger. These days, I believe it's just a feeling that comes from doing similar activities.

If there's anything about dreams which is particular to aspies, I haven't found it yet. Perhaps other people can highlight similarities and differences?

27 comments:

Hig-Quality Mothering said...

Quite interesting, to say the least.
My 7 yo AS son has such vivid dreams, that he swears up & down that it really happened.
He has described in detail his vomit to a member of our congregation who then asked why we were there if Josiah had gotten sick earlier in the day. (never happened) He also insisted that he rode a roller coaster one morning & told everyone that all day long. (never happened)
So, I had to just "believe" that what he "dreamed" was "real" to him & accept it for that.
Curious...
He wakes up daily & tells me his dreams, whether nightmares or not.
Thanks for sharing... by the way, do you know anything about lucid dreaming? Did your "epic" dreams you described, continue each night willingly?
Kelly K

Larisa said...

my son dreams, dreams a LOT. he has a lot of deja vu types of dreams, and the biggest one he had was of 9-11, about 6 hours before it happened. a really good online dream dictionary is www.dreammoods.com

bluedancer said...

oh--i had to laugh about the "swimming through air" dream. it's one of my common dreams too (so much fun! and so disappointing to wake up from them.) i haven't had one in a while, but they were a recurring theme for years.

Priscilla said...

Thank you for writing about your dreams. I am so glad to learn that there are people out there who dream like me. My dreams are very vivid and I often wake up feeling more tired than before I went to bed. I like the type of dreams where I travel to multiple places in a landscape that is a cross between my new country (Australia) and my country of birth. I also like the ones where I can run very well.

Hartley said...

Hi,

I just wanted to comment on the "Luicid Dreaming" question:

I have had lucid dreams since I was probably around 2. I taught myself the skill originally as a means to stop my own nightmares (at the time stemming from my parent's divorce).

I have used this skill with both of my older boys for the same reason. We have used it as a way to not only be able to stop what is going on in a nightmare, but of course to enable us to do the flying dream (I too had that as a child and LOVED it).

My oldest, with HFA, doesn't seem to be able to grasp it, but my middle son, now 6, began explaining his dreams to me in GREAT detail when he as 18 months old (very advanced verbal skills helped this). He is able to lucid dream just like me.

My oldest son does seem to have the vivid nightmares that I have a hard time "proving" aren't real. Like as if it is my memory against his. That line of real and imaginary is a hard one for him.

Thanks, as always Gavin, for opening up another conversation!
Hartley
hartleysboys.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Gavin. Quite interesting.
In a future post, can you talk about the need for privacy that many Aspies have?

Tamala said...

I go though long periods of not remembering my dreams but when I do they are about the mechanics of things as you say. It's interesting when people say they dreamed about someone because I don't dream about people. I have had dreams about fixing the drainage problem in a hotel from ocean waves, finding the right angle to place a cardboard box so I could fly, finding my way around a large building with secret passages but I have never dreamed about my sister or mom or a stranger on the street I saw.

I have often dreamed about different building (not real ones, just in my dreams)and could probably draw a layout of many of these.

It's interesting that you wrote this because I have felt that my dreams aren't like most people's who have described their dreams to me.

JLG said...

i've dreamed 4 nights in a row about someone i really really like. Like a series of dreams, and the whole high school i am at is there too. there was a harry potter theme last night and the night before it was us and others at the cinema. they are vivid and i can remember them very clearly when they involve someone i am close to or like very much. it makes my very heart-sick.

JJ said...

hi gavin

i used to have epic dreams when i was young. i also have dreams with sequels that come up years later (i usually realise it's a sequel while i'm dreaming). i had terrible nightmares all through my childhood of being persued by people on motorbikes dressed in black, w/ black helmets i couldn't see into. these dreams stopped when i learnt lucid dreaming to give myself the "super power" of running faster than light. i never daydream even though i've always wished i would/could. my dreams usually are to do w/ people but sometimes they can be very abstract too, like dreaming about how individual numbers feel (i'm really into maths so i love those kinda dreams). i talk to people quite alot about dreams and from what they describe the only difference between nt dreams and mine is i've never heard an nt tell me about epic dreams.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gavin, I just came across your blog and am enjoying reading it. I recently began suspecting my 12 year old son has Aspergers, so I've been researching as much as possible. (Still waiting on referrals from his pediatricain to get a diagnosis)

Dreams have always been a favorite subject for me. I find it interesting to think that Aspergers could cause my son to dream differently. Never really thought about that before.

He loves to tell me his dreams in great detail, like reciting a favorite movie. I remember thinking one was particularly odd, because he dreamed that he was a cartoon character on the kids' show, "Rug Rats". I've never heard of anyone else dreaming as cartoons. Have you?

Also, I wanted to thank you for your comment about daydreams becoming like nightmares that really 'freaked you out'. About two weeks ago, my son was sitting in his room and suddenly thought that I was an alien who was out to hurt him. He became panicked and ran out of the house crying. He tried to hop our fence and backed away from me when I tried to help him down.

It was terrifying for me to see him like that. I managed to get him back into his bedroom, but he continued insisting I was 'one of them' and cried out for his little brother to come help him.

There was a knock at the front door, so I had to leave him for a moment. When I came back, he'd snapped out of it and was back to himself. He remembered everything, but had no idea why he'd acted like that. The closest thing to an explanation he could come up with was that he'd tried to scare his brother about aliens, but ended up scaring himself.

His pediatrician said it could have been a type of seizure, but that kids don't normally remember them afterwards. Now after reading your post, I'm wondering if it was just a day dream gone bad.

Does this description sound similar to what you meant by being freaked out about your daydreams that turned scary?

Amy Murphy said...

Great subject Gavin! I seemed to have always had vivid and lucid dreams that seem so real. Lately I have been talking with relatives that have passed away and have a hrad time, in the morning, remembering that they are passed. My recall of dreams is often quite detailed and specific.
My nightmares are usually of storms and trying to locate a phone, only to find that there are just a few numbers on the dial. I'm thinking those relate to my wanting to connect with people. My frustrations showing up in my dream world. Amy

Lil' Miss Sunshine said...

Thanks for this post.Here's my feed back and experience.
I am a 30 year old adult in the process of being diagnosed and was curious about whether Aspies have emotional dreaming because I definitely have always been scared in my dreams, but rarely happy.
Usually, I wake up disappointed because I've been so able to control my dream...more so when I realize I haven't dreamed something 'normal' despite my control. I often know I have dreamed but remember the details slowly, if at all, sometimes over the course of years but that's always suspect after so long a time.
I learned to narrate and observe my dreams naturally around the age of 7, probably from one of the many scifi shows I loved.
I usually dream as a character in a real story or one I've made up, It usually feels like starring in a movie without being asked and the other characters defer to me often saying things like "What are we suposed to do now?" as though we all know we're in a dream.
I too still clearly remember dreams from years past and have a hard time remembering truth from dream. My favorite dream I still remember is of a giant library with a spiral stair that when I looked up, looked like a bisected moonshell.
I often dream of wandering through elaborate buildings, often amalgums of real places.
As a child and teen I would often see a spiral and feel I was falling, jerking up physically and waking.This was when I first would go to sleep.I'd also have an overwhelming feeling that I knew the feeling of being dead,tho' I knew I wasn't dead, at night. I would bolt up freaking out,unable to shake the feeling as I'd try to go to sleep again. From an early age I'd also go through my whole morning routine, including morning class, only to open my eyes still in bed.Sometimes I'd run downstairs to ask my Mom if I'd been downstairs and what day it was.
I have also had the 'air swimming' dream as well as repetative and epic dreams sometimes over the course of years.
I often have about one dream a year that sticks with me for it's simple realism and it'll pop back into memory years later when it's mirrored in reality so,I used to worry I could be clairvoyent or psychic or schitzophrenic *haha*
There's always a problem to solve in my dreams, I'm often flying at some point and I'm often being pursued. I still have a fear of the dark.
As a child I was a horrible insomniac, convinced that there was a reality 'normal' people knew nothing about that was actually interacting with me while I slept.I was terrified of my corner closet and of my family 'turning bad' and coming to get me, ala more scifi stories. I was also terrified of allowing my limbs to dangle over my bed,usually afraid of syringes being stuck in them(my Mom watched alot of crime shows with drugging of victims) I would often wake up on the floor.I still prefer floor-sleeping.
I hope my overly wordy reply post is interesting and helpful.
Thanks again.

Daniel said...

I'm a 20-year old aspie and i had this dream that I've had only a hand full of times. i take meds to help me sleep and the times I've had the dream I've take then meds. in the dream there is some fact and some stuff im not sure about. but every time i have it it scare the living crap out of me and I'm always afraid to go back asleep in leu of the dream continuing.

Marcie said...

I've had lucid dreams in color and with feeling since can remember. Had terrible night terrors that caused me to roll off the bed in toddler years. Have epic dreams. Always dream in detail, several dreams a night. Also, prophetic dreams of animals and people and how they will die. (Adult Female with Aspergers)

Anonymous said...

I'm a 17 year old girl w/ aspergers. I've had 'lucid dreams' for as long as I can remember and I never 'trained' myself to do it. I thought that realizing u were in a dream and being able to control the people/stuff in them was something everyone did but I found out about an hour ago apparently it's not? I figured it must hav something to do w/ the aspergers so... Ya. Anyway. I have them every night. And I normally have 'epic dreams' as u called them too. And they're always in color if that matters. I've had maybe 5-10 dreams in my life where I'm still aware its a dream as always but for some reason I cant control it as much or I choose not to, those dreams r always really weird. O, and I can remember all of my dreams, even one's I had when I was in like first grade. Hope that helped someone :)

Wooboy said...

Well I am a 34 year old Aspie and my dreams and sleep problems do give a lot of trouble... sometimes some intense dreams disturb my thoughts as if they gave me the idea that what happened in the dream (often related to past events that emotionally touched me a lot)after wakng up the thoughts still wander in my mind and it takes time to realize that it was an event that never happened and I have to think a lot to chase that idea because it gives me fear to be trapped in a false idea to deal with outside reality... not like a psychotic idea I really realize it is wrong but would make it difficult for me to deal with reality if I get disturbed by images of an event from my dreams and not true experience... very strange and really annoying

Anonymous said...

WOW! I am currently in the process of being formally diagnosed with Aspergers. I am a 27 year old single mother with 2 little boys. When I read this post about the "swimming through the air" dream I couldn't help but smile because that means there is another thing I can have in common with people. I absolutely LOVE the swimming dream. It is one of my favorites that has been recurring since I was a young child. When you said you couldn't wait to run outside and try it, I know exactly the feeling because I ran outside as soon as my eyes opened, maybe still half asleep, and attempted to start "swimming" haha. I couldn't figure out why I couldn't make it happen again and tried different things like jumping and running and jumping (I was a younger child). But I remember that like it was yesterday and felt so silly for doing that. Now I know I'm even less of a weirdo than I thought :) Anyway, yes I remember most of my dreams and have always wanted to write the ones I remember in a journal, but my attention span wouldn't *let* me focus that long, (I'm doing it right now actually, lost the sentence and couldn't think of one word and now I'm rambling haha sorry) I taught myself at a young age to lucid dream to help with the nightmares. I also have epic dreams that last days or I will add pieces as much as years later. I didn't see anything other than nightmares and night terrors in the comments, but does anybody have sleep paralysis with hallucinations? I get them on occasion and when they first started when I was 25 my 25 year old butt had to sleep in the bed with my mother because I was literally petrified. Mine are always the same, I wake and can't move but I can still use all of my senses. My eyes are open and I cannot blink but I can see just as if I'm wide awake but the scary part is the demons that sit in the right corner of my bedroom (hallucinations) and a few times when I open my eyes they are at the side of my bed at my calves...yeah definitely in bed with my mother. But anyway, this blog site has really helped me cope with the transition of finally getting the answers I've been looking for my whole life...thank you *oh and while rereading this to check for errors the word I couldn't think of before was *permit me to* I didn't correct that on purpose to see if other people do that too and feel completely stupid when they hit a brick wall and can't even speak anymore in a face to face conversation....? but thank you everyone for doing this. I feel a little less "alone" now :)

Katie said...

I'm a 19 year old female college student with Aspergers, and in a long term relationship. My boyfriend is on a study abroad trip in Africa and we have very little communication because of his lack of access to phones or internet. This has caused me to have very lucid and horrible dreams since he has left about him being injured or being completely different when he returns. I have even had a dream that he has returned from the trip and all of a sudden wants nothing to do with me. They always end badly and leave me waking up upset and ready to cry. I know that it is not true and is not going to happen but it bothers me so much and this has been going on for over a week. I know that it won't stop until he returns and I can see him but I haven't been this stressed out and sleep deprived since finals week. I have never been this upset by dreams and usually don't remember dreaming at all, so this change in sleeping habits is affecting me drastically. He was also on a trip during Christmas break with the same level of communication and I never had these experiences the first time. It just leaves me feeling hopeless and depressed.

Anonymous said...

I see a clear correlation with aspies and flying dreamns. Not a specific charectoristic but I can definately see why our frame of concsousness leads to that. Sometimes in real life I jump as hard as I can out of what I believe is muscle memory with instinct of flight.

Anonymous said...

Don't know if anyone is still reading this after being so old, but I just wanted to mention I've had dreams of sensations I've never experienced before such as being drunk,kissed,and even stabbed in my younger years only to realize later that they were exactly as they were in my dream.

Kas said...

My AS hubby has a dream city. He has been visiting the same place since he was a child. Some of the areas are based on real places, but not all. He has also described for me his dreams that feel like weeks/months/years to him, only to wake up and find that he has been asleep for 12hrs. He says that they feel sooo real. The worst was one where he was married with kids, when he woke up he was expecting to see them, he said he really had trouble readjusting to the real world and convincing himself it was a dream.

Eleanor said...

Thank you so much for this post. At 54 yo I am beginning to wonder if I have not always had a low-grade Asberger's. I hate change, I need quiet and solitude, I need to follow up on ideas until I exhaust them, and most of all, I have always had the most detailed, epic dreams-- I can remember them from when I was even a tot. I was so convinced they were real that to this day, I am not sure they weren't. Some have been deeply spiritual. My husband thinks it's amaing, but sometimes I wish I could just be normal.

Isla said...

I have thought that I have Aspergers for a while now and I am noticing a lot of similarities with your dreams as with mine. I have to sleep with a light on, other wise I make images with the dark objects in the room and I get freaked out.

Also, I have had many flying dreams in which it feels like I am swimming through the air and it is quite amazing. All of my flying dreams occur in the same place (in the car park of my local super market) and often I have to get away from someone or something on the ground.

After reading this blog I really do think that I do have Aspergers (although I'm not sure I would like the hassle of going to the GP and get her to worry about me)

thank you for reading.

JecaM said...

Thank you so much for posting this! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one with epic dreams that go for night after night. Can you ever make yourself fall right into dreaming sleep again by simply remembering where you left off last?

I believe I am a high functioning aspie adult. It took a long time to look people in the face when I talk to them, to give and receive hugs comfortably, and even to understand the world around me. I have come a long way but even now that I have a husband and loving friends and family, there are still no faces in my dreams. Not my husband, not my parents, not even of people I don't know or have made up. I might know they are happy, but its like the "camera" is never on them. It makes me sad that I still don't dream in full conversations with people that I care about in the same way that my friends in high school used to describe.

Please tell me I'm not the only one....?

Darcy said...

I live with a man who I suspect has Aspergers. He dreams epic dreams so vividly that he often wakes up and entertains me with a new episode. He remembers every detail and the dreams are quite involved. I am amazed by some of the things he dreams about, and find it just one more reason to think that yes...He is an "aspie". I thank you for this blog as you have given me much to think about and understand when it comes to his and my relationship.

Dani said...

You call them Epic dreams ? I call them saga dreams , they are realy wierd i hade them 2 times and the 2 times i had them i just wished they stoped not becouse of the dream in it self i actualy liked them they where realy intense , but it was becouse of the efect they had on me when i woke up, try putting your hand on you forhead, feel that ? it was similar to how i went troght the day and i was realy realy realy exausted , actualy something funny happen in them i could feel when they where ending our not , and (still talking about the epic/sagadreams ) when i started to dream it would allwais begin when it had endended the night before

Miguel Palacio said...

I was diagnosed a few years ago.

Ever since I was a little kid I've dreamt of flying in my dreams. Sometimes for the fun of it, and sometimes to get away when I feel I'm being persecuted. Often I jump from tall buildings, cliffs, mountains or precipices. I do fall for a while before my flying abilities take effect, and then I can fly and even glide like a condor through valleys and what not traveling long distances through the countryside. But here is a weird rule that's been stuck in my brain: I can only fly as fast as I am old. For example, if I'm 25 years old, my maximum speed is 25 miles per hour. Go figure!

Sometimes I can take off from the ground, but again, it doesn't happen right away, there seems to be s lag from when I try to when I actually take off. This lag, whether it be from the ground or when I jump off things can be quite scary and/or frustrating, but it is a relief once I get going. And once I get going it can be quite reassuring and peaceful, unless my speed limitations are an impediment to my safety or arriving somewhere in time. A small consolation is that at least I can go in a straight line