The phone rung.
The dogs barked.
A gunshot went off.
Whatever happened, you woke with a start. You’ve suddenly sat straight up in bed. Your sleep has been interrupted.
The thoughts running through your mind melt away quickly.
You now have forgotten most of your dream or were stopped dreaming in the middle of the dream. It’s as if you never had one.
You can still get some benefit from remembering and journaling the dream, though probably not as much as if you had woken up naturally and finished the dream. Your subconscious mind was active and you were thinking about something, and there’s a reason for it. You might be able to put the interrupted dream together with other dreams and come to understanding about your life or a situation.
One or two details are better than no details.
It might spur you to recall more of the dream later.
Note your thoughts as you try to go back to sleep
If you had to answer a phone call in the middle of the night, the thoughts you have as you try to go back to sleep aren’t indicative of anything. The phone call has involved an exchange of words and thoughts, even if it was the wrong number.
That goes for any kind of conversation or if you stopped and watched a little TV, listened to a podcast, some music, or got into a discussion with your bedmate.
After interrupted sleep, these kinds of activities tend to the mind and inhibit getting back into the progression of the sleep cycle. Try to avoid them. They also complicate the problem of interrupted sleep from a health perspective.
If, however, you were woken suddenly and try to go back to sleep, your thoughts might indicate something of what the dream you were having was about.
You might have a song in your head.
If you find this is the case, try to understand what the thought means. Try to understand what symbol your subconscious is using. Understanding what the thought means helps to lock it in your short-term memory.
Sometimes this is easily done. You can put together a quick interpretation based on the events in your life, combined with your ideas about what the symbols or phrases mean to you.
Sometimes it isn’t easy at all. You have one thought standing alone by itself and no contextual clues to help you understand what it means.
Frequently interrupted sleep
You can find yourself in a situation where, for an extended period, your sleep is frequently interrupted. Sometimes it’s for different reasons. Sometimes it’s the same reason again and again. For the sake of your health, you need to do something about this. Don’t be complacent. Chances are, you know what to do. Put the smartphone on silent. Keep the dog out of the bedroom. Wear earplugs, so you don’t wake so easily. Do what you need to do while staying calm and reasonable.
Just because your sleep has been interrupted doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It’s just less than ideal. Don’t act like it’s the end of the world. Don’t get angry. Don’t act like a bear that’s been woken out of hibernation. As a rule of thumb, keeping calm helps you solve almost any problem you may have in life. It’s better for the people in your life to think of you as a hero rather than a villain.
Do your best. Try to understand and interpret your dreams as you go. After you wake or sometime at a calm moment in the afternoon, take a moment to jot a few lines in your dream journal about what you remember from the dream the night before. Even if you remember only part of the dream, it still can be helpful. It helps keep your intuition sharp because it keeps your approach to the world organized and cues you into patterns.
It’s still an exercise that encourages a bit of self-reflection. That’s always important.
James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life.
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Updated Feb. 24, 2022