Sometimes I tell stories on the fly, out of boredom or as a mental exercise. I’ve always had a pretty vivid imagination and my dreams are no exception.
This morning I woke up at about 5AM because my little beast Dakota had gotten into the bedroom earlier while I was running errands, rummaged through the laundry baskets to find his favourite piece of worn clothing – socks. The problem with Dakota’s fascination with socks is that he doesn’t just like to collect and hold them like my family’s golden retriever Jesse used to do, he likes to eat them, and they always come back up in the form of a very unappealing blob almost always on our carpet. (I am just about ready to throw this whole carpet out, it’s amazing how many things he has used to soil it… is that TMI? Ah well.)
So, after I tended to my poor pup, cleaned up the mess and was sure he was a-ok, I went back to bed. I haven’t been sleeping particularly well lately but I fortunately fell back asleep instantly.
What followed was a very bizarre and unusual sequence of events. If you want to read the dream, keep trekking on, if you want to skip right to today’s topic of how your food alters your dreams, scroll on down passed the italics!
I wake up beside Matt, in a dark room with many windows. I can immediately see outside that there is a vast wrap-around porch that overlooks a forest, with trees so tall they come up over the porch. I’m groggy and still tired, because as I explain to dream-Matt, I had to get up at 5AM to tend to Dakota and it really messed with my sleep for the night. He goes to check on Dakota, and I start grumbling about how it’s going to be a rough day at work, especially because I know I’m going to have to operate a webcast all day and I don’t quite feel like doing that.
I carry on with my morning routine, use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and plug in the hair straightener because I don’t have time for a shower but I’ll be damned if I’m going into work with my signature bed-head.
I plug the straightener into an outlet outside on the porch on the opposite side of my bedroom. There’s a little bench there that I can sit on, but I go back inside, humming and hawing about whether or not I should just call in sick to work because I’m so tired. It begins to rain outside, further motivating me to stay in all day being lazy and relaxing. I take my phone out of my pocket and begin drafting a text to my scheduling manager that explains I wont be coming in today because of Dakota getting expectantly sick and me just not feeling top notch. I don’t send it.
The water is rising outside fast, and by the time I look outside again, it’s at least 2 feet high flooding the porch (the porch, that is not wholly enclosed, so I’m not sure why the water won’t just fall off into the forest, but this won’t be the first weird senseless thing that happens in this dream…)
I suddenly remember the straightener and start running all over the house looking for it, and it isn’t until the water outside is waist-high that I remember it’s heating up via the porch outlet. I panic. “I need to get that straightener!” But the water is so high, is it safe to retrieve it?
My sister appears out of thin air, looking at me like I have four heads and asks me why I don’t just go out and get it instead of freaking out. Before I explain the water (as if she can’t see it.) she heads out and carefully walks through the flooded porch to retrieve it. I start yelling at her through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows to be careful because it’s been plugged in. She can’t hear me. I watch as she picks it up and is immediately electrocuted, her hair strands up in all directions, comically, like a cartoon, and she looks visibly stunned. I panic further. “Jodie’s been electrocuted! Get her inside!”
I then pull out my phone again to draft another message to my scheduling manager explaining that not only was my dog sick, but my sister has since been electrocuted, and so there’s just no way I can come in because I have to get her help.
I notice the time and it’s 10 minutes to 8AM, my scheduled start time, so I decide I’ll hustle over to work and tell them what’s happening in person.
So I get to work, except it’s not my boring old office building that I’ve spent endless hours in over the last 4 years, it’s more of an old-school, renaissance looking mansion. There are grand paintings on all the walls, candle lined, and all the furniture is hilariously over sized. I find my way to what appears to be a common room filled with about twelve coworkers, faceless, who are all sitting about in lounge chairs or at a long wooden table with thick throne-like chairs, eating, drinking and socializing. I find my way to one of my other full-time workers and tell him what’s been going on with me all morning, all the while wondering why he’s drinking and seemingly partying with the staff at 8AM when he should be working (and why are there so many staff here right now anyways?). He’s speaking slowly which agitates me as I’m still in a bit of a panic and definitely in a hurry. I tell him I can’t operate the webcast today, and he says I need to speak with the new boss about it. “New boss?”
He explains how I get to the new bosses office and I carry on my merry way.
To get to the new bosses office, I have to follow a long winding corridor that gets darker with every step. It starts to sketch me out when I push open a massive chestnut door to reveal…. nothing. Well, a desk and a leather chair, but no boss. So now I’m irritated because I walked all this way and he’s not even there. I go back to the common room and find my co-worker again and explain that I couldn’t find him and I really need to leave. He mumbles a response that apparently I don’t like because the next thing I do is pick up an item from a nearby couch (pillow? maybe.) and hurl it across the room. It hits a stunning silver candelabra and sends it smashing to the ground, where it miraculously lands on it’s feet except for one candle that flies off it’s holder and onto the carpet. I panic, again, because I’ve already had one electrocution today and I don’t need to set fire to my office, too.
My coworkers stop partying and are now ticked off that I’ve caused a scene. They’re coming for me, so I quickly swoop down to blow out the candle that fell, leaving the other 3 live, and I go running out the door.
I find myself in a grey empty space at the top of what appears to be a multi-story building with two people running at my side. It takes me a second, but I quickly realize they’re my friends and they’re helping. We duck into a side door to lose the trail of my angry coworkers which turns out to be a movie theater. Apparently I also work there as I ask the first person I see to give me my due paycheck and he does. I put the paycheck in my pocket and we go back out the same door we came.
We run to the end of the hall where there’s a set of stairs and a packed escalator. I don’t know where any of these people came from since there was nobody else on the top floor with us, but alright. We run past the people for a minute to gain some distance from the angry coworkers we presume are still following us. The escalators wind all the way down every floor and it’s dizzying to look at. People are hanging off the railings and lounging against the adjacent stairs. Eventually we stop running and let the escalator lead us down while we catch our breath.
We’re talking about a game plan when suddenly my earbuds that I’m magically wearing get tangled up with the cord from somebody else’s headphones. He’s standing with a group of guys on the stairs and I begin frantically struggling to get my ear buds loose from his cord before he notices what’s happening and as the escalator is pulling me further and further away. I don’t get it untangled in time and he notices the tug on his ears, spots me, and begins to shout, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing trying to steal my headphones?” – and even my friend with me says, “Why are you trying to take his headphones?” So now I’m pissed because, as I say loudly, “I’m not! I don’t want his damn headphones I’m trying to get mine loose.”
The guy and his friends get ticked off and start running down the stairs after us – I take his headphones with me, and we run down the remainder of the escalators and out the double doors at the base.
Outside, it’s bright, sunny, and warm. And my friend’s dog is now with us, except he’s not her dog, he’s a Great Dane with the same name as her dog. The dog’s acting wild and weird, so he gets loose from my friend, and with his leash flailing behind him he runs over to a nearby front lawn. It’s then that I notice he has red spots appearing on his belly and they’re growing at an alarming rate. We watch from afar as the red spots grow and grow and suddenly 7-8 red pepper-shaped growths start formulating out of his body, growing larger and larger, so large that the dog falls on his back as he can no longer stand on his own legs – and then they burst. Most disintegration,e but some fold their way back into his body. From two of them, Great Dane puppies are born! Only they’re not really baby Dane’s so much as they’re about 6 months old and able to walk, see, and interact already.
My “friends’ dog” gets protective, but we’re able to befriend the puppies. It is at this point that I realize the striped shirt I’m wearing is inside out, and that infuriates me. All I can think is, “Geez, first Dakota, then Jodie gets electrocuted, and even my shirt has been inside out this whole day.” Because apparently not looking presentable in public is more important than just witnessing an alien growth out of a male dog that turned into magical puppies.
I then find myself back at home, and I finally breathe a sigh of relief because now I can take my sister to the hospital to make sure she’s okay. She sees me at home, and I ask her how she’s doing. She looks at me blankly and says she’s fine and that she was only pretending to have been electrocuted, so there’s nothing to worry about.
I wake up, for real this time.
That’s a weird one, isn’t it?
Now, if I was going to throw on my Junior Psychologist hat I’d probably explain the odd events of my dream as being a result of my stress about work, being a little worried about Dakota getting into things he shouldn’t, and perhaps spending too much time with the neighbour’s Great Dane, but what I’m really interested in is how late night snacking might contribute to my brain’s activity.
That night, I had some Cheetos after dinner. Dangerously cheesy, indeed.
Dreams happen in several phases of sleep. One of those is known as “slow wave sleep” where your heart rate and breathing slows and you body beings to release hormones that help metabolize your food but also to help heal your tired body. Another, that you’re probably familiar with, is the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle, and this is usually where the most vivid and crazy dreams occur. Studies show that your brain’s activity during the REM cycle actually mimics the amount of energy expenditure it utilizes when you’re awake. That is one active brain! And what does an active brain need? Nourishment.
Dr. Gary Wenk, a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the Ohio State University and Medical Center suggests that the best food to eat at night to ensure a good night’s rest is a PB&J sandwich. Yes, really. “The bread and the jelly are great sources of simple carbohydrates, which are terrible usually, but great for sleep,” he says. The idea here is that the sugar supplies energy for the active brain activity, but the extra serotonin (known as the “calming” hormone) relaxes you into a peaceful night’s sleep. On the other hand, “if you go to bed hungry, with low blood sugar, you probably will not have a normal sleep pattern,” Wenk remarks.
The point here is that what you fuel your body with definitely impacts your quality of sleep.
Now, it’s not as cut and dry as X foods and Y foods will result in a particularly active dream pattern, because different foods affect us all differently. You might hear from a friend that if they have dairy before bed, some chocolate, or something spicy, they’ll experience vivid dreams, but you yourself might not see any affect with those foods. Your relationship to a particular food, as well as the quantity of indulgence and how close to your sleep time you ingest it are all factors. Genetics play a huge factor here, too.
So if you want experience some wacky dreams, start experimenting! Maybe try some Cheetos?