You know that moment when your body has already settled down on the bed and is fast-tracking towards the slumberland, but then some sound triggers your brain to semi-wake up? And the result of this is a jumble of, sometimes, scary imagery being conjured up. But what if this imagery isn’t exactly neither a dream, nor a memory, but something else?
Apparently this state is called hypnagogia. This can cause anything from flashes of light to full-blown apparitions to be seen. Other phenomena include things like suggestion susceptibility and even lucid dreaming. Quite fascinating actually.
Not wanting to delve too deep into what hypnagogia actually is (as you can read about it yourself from the link above), I had a moment of it last night because of a dog barking somewhere in the distance. This, as I remember, was followed some time later with something that must have been a door slamming, probably a car door. But in that semi-awakened state it turned into a gunshot in the dark. And this, dear reader, turned into an onset of a zombie apocalypse in my mind.
I admit to watching my share of The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead, which in my mind are two series that should be watched from a psychological point of view as well as from a zombie apocalypse point of view. For me to have this seep into my nightmares means the series have been well crafted and planned. Maybe it is also because I use my imagination a lot in writing and roleplaying, but also because I have always been fearful of something like it to happen. The closest to this scenario was when we entered into the COVID-19 lockdown in Spain. That was exciting, but horrifying time, as there was no reference about this for me from any of my former experiences.
At some point in the vivid imaginative dream, I even realised that this could not be really happening, but still, the whole scene continued. It actually went on until I fell properly asleep.
The thing is that this didn’t leave me alone. After waking up in the morning, I still remember everything, and it still feels completely real. So you can imagine my dread when I ventured out with the doggoes for their morning business, and there was hardly anyone (as I was out quite early). I hate to admit it, but I half waited some zombie shuffle towards me from somewhere. Obviously, I was wrong. This time, at least.
But is this a sign of stress or just a good, old-fashioned, active imagination? Should I be worried that I dreamt of a zombie apocalypse instead of unicorns and green fields?
Even if nightmares have been linked to mental disorders, recent studies have found out that the Covid-19 pandemic actually increased the number of nightmares on people. And this isn’t a bad thing: all dreams allow our brains to organise the files and store them away for future reference. It is the same with nightmares. The BBC has an article about this.
What I am more concerned about is that having more frequent bad dreams might be linked closely with stress. And show me a person who doesn’t have any stress in the modern world. But even with stress and nightmares, I wouldn’t trade them away because a certain amount of stress makes your brain work better.