When reality intrudes on your dreams...

Something funny happened last night when the fire alarms went off in my building.

I was dreaming a boring dream–something about an event at my school with alumni talking about grad school, careers, etc.–and in that dream I was asking a psychology grad student about his thesis project. “I’m in alarm theory,” he said. (Apparently this had something to do with the behaviors of individuals and crowds in response to fire alarms, etc.) “And as a matter of fact, we’re going to do a test run right now.”

At that point, I woke up to the blast of a fire alarm. (I thought I heard the onset of the alarm, but in hindsight that seems really unlikely.) Normally, this would make me jump, or at least get my heart racing. Not now. I simply thought “Ah. There it is. Do I have to get up for it?” before I realized that I was not in a conference hall but in bed, blind as a bat, and that I should probably do something about finding my glasses, bundling up against the cold, and fleeing the building.

Now, I’m not putting this in the prophetic dream thread because the interval is so short, and it seems to me like a simple case of my brain incorporating a (very loud) stimulus into my dream (rather obliquely) for a while before bothering to actually do something about it, namely, waking me up.

But it still seems bizarre, yet endearing, that my brain would rather invent ten seconds of conversation about a bogus subject to justify the noise outside than wake me up promptly. That sort of thing is not going to help me in an emergency.

So, tell me: what happens when reality leaks into your dreams before waking?

I’ve had that happen several times. I hear the phone ring while I’m asleep, and answer it in the dream, and when I wake up, see that my phone has a missed call.

Abstruse Goose has a disturbing take on this concept.

I have incorporated my alarm clock into my dream many times.

I recall that happening once. It was a pulp sci-fi themed dream, and I was talking to an alien queen in a skimpy metallic outfit while some gadget in the back of the throne room kept beeping louder and louder and louder.

I also had a falling dream during which a thunderstorm started up, and my dreaming mind interpreted the thunder as me hitting the ground. Quite the way to wake up.

So have I; often when I’m dreaming about doing something like ordering a Nuclear Missile Strike on some country which has displeased me, or my Spitfire squadron is being scrambled to intercept Jerry, or that sort of thing.

A few months ago my next door neighbour was having a party and it went on quite late, and the people were quite loud. In my dream I was talking to someone who suddenly started screaming and I woke up and realised it was one of the people next door. I was not impressed.

Oftentimes, if I badly need to pee, I’ll be running around in my dream frantically looking for a bathroom. Finally, it’ll occur to me, Wake up, stupid, and get your ass to the bathroom!

What’s interesting to me is that time does not need to be linear in dreams. For example, I’ve had dreams where the phone (in real life) next to my head was ringing, but my brain would keep me busy or somehow freeze time so that I could “answer” it in the dream as soon as it stopped ringing. Weird stuff.

I once had a dream that my husband had thrown the cat on my bed and the force of its landing shook the bed and woke me up in my dream. Then I woke up in real life. I later learned we had had a minor earthquake at the time of the dream.

Had a dream where I was riding on a boxcar, when the entire freight train started rocking violently from side to side, seemingly about to fly right off the tracks. Suddenly, the engineer rushed in and shouted, “Wake up! It’s not a train wreck – it’s an earthquake!” Sure enough, I woke up right in the middle of the Northridge Earthquake.

I used to work at a small movie theater, and between shows there would often be nothing to do, so I would sit in a chair outside the theater and sometimes fall asleep. You could hear the movie through the doors and whenever it was a foreign film, I would begin to fall asleep to the strange language but my mind would translate the sounds into English. I had the most bizarre, non-sensical hypnagogic dreams there.

Some years ago I had a dream about the Second Coming. This huge beam of light suddenly stabbed down from Heaven. I had this intense, ecstatic feeling, like, “Wow, so all that God stuff is really true!”

Then I woke up and saw that the sun was positioned so that a sunbeam was sneaking around the side of the windowshade and falling directly on my face.

For some odd reason, the mention of a boxcar reminds me of a terrifying dream I had as a small child. The dream featured a huge wind storm that had destroyed my house and swept my family away, and ended with me clinging to the top of a canvas-covered dump truck. The canvas was taut, and I was losing my grip, about to be blown off and smudged on the freeway…

…and I awoke to find myself crying and gripping the fitted sheet on my bed. REM paralysis just wasn’t for me, I guess.