Second-sleep dreams are nightmares.
It is entirely possible, of course, that my main sleep dreams are nightmares as well, but when I’ve been woken from an unbroken sleep, it’s usually out of dreams or nothing at all.
Sometimes there are nightmares, but these are “classic” nightmares, vivid and sharp-edges and with a storyline all their own. They can be terrifying, so much so the nightmares themselves wake me up, but they are clearly of the sleep-world, not that of the world awake.
Second-sleep dreams, though, they’re something else. Fuzzy and shot through with bits from real life, they are all anxiety, shifting and off-kilter. I don’t know if it’s because, in that second sleep, I don’t go fully under, such that the gears of the REM sleep slip and freeze up and tear, pinning me into a narrative which is neither fully here nor there.
These dreams tend to be of two types: One, I’m moving, and haven’t packed or haven’t ordered the truck, and possibly in the midst of this I think, Why am I moving? I don’t want to leave. The plot of the second type varies considerably (yesterday morning, I was in a high school classroom, and then at a party in the home of a bad ex-boss, and then it was as if I lived there and needed to pack to leave and, oh, yes, at some point I was naked, although a kind man—rabbi? priest?—tactfully turned away as I slid on a shirt), but at some point in the dream I am unable to see clearly and/or to walk without falling over. I keep rubbing my eyes, but everything is blurry or sliced into mis-aligned ribbons, a discombobulation magnified by a dizziness which sends me sideways. (Other, less-common recurring types: at the airport without a ticket/passport/luggage/time; having to take an exam after not attending class the entire semester; om stage and not knowing how to play my instrument/my lines/what play I’m in.)
Unpleasant, all around.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I tend to see dreams as a kind of venting off of whatever is going on in my life, perhaps mingled with bits from movies or t.v. (e.g., zombie nightmares); these second-sleep dreams, coming after a near-complete night’s sleep, seem to pull even more from immediate events. I had had a conversation about that bad boss, for example, on Friday, so her commandeering a portion of that dread-narrative is unsurprising.
Still, there are certain, ah, recurring themes in these second-sleep dreams. One concerns how well I fit into my life: Am I settled here? Can I make my life here, or will at some point will I have to go? Is there anyplace for me? The second is a kind of panic of loss of sight, of sense: I know I can see; why can’t I see? If I could just. . . get clear. And of the minor type dreams: timing and forgetting and performance. Anxieties, all.
I doubt I am unique in either the peculiarity of second-sleep dreams or these anxieties, though I’d guess that the moving and blurred eyes bits are culled from my life: I have moved a lot, and I have problems with my eyes. A pianist or surgeon’s hands may go numb, a mechanic might forget how this moves with that, a father’s son might disappear, the ad exec’s computer crashes before the presentation—all what we rely upon and worry over refracted through a broken unconsciousness.