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In the arms of Morpheus

Claire Kelley | Wednesday, December 8, 2004

It has become a pattern. By the end of the semester, as the dark days descend on us and the work piles up, I turn nocturnal. My most productive hours are between midnight and four in the morning.

Over the years, I have learned not to fight this inevitable shift in my sleeping schedule because by recognizing and yielding to my insomnia at night, I get the most work accomplished. And there are other benefits – I am allowed a daytime nap, and I have fantastic dreams.

Because my sleep cycles are interwoven into my longer periods of consciousness I often remember my dreams. And these dreams have become increasingly realistic. I find myself questioning whether an event really happened or if I imagined it. I am slipping slowly into a dual existence – the one that I create, and the one I must interpret.

Embarking on this existential way of life has sharpened my perception of reality. I pay more attention to little things – the flower sitting next to my keyboard at the LaFortune computer cluster, the declaration of love inscribed in a library carrel on the eighth floor, and the person who returns my lost ID – because these are the subjects of the fragments of memory that will resurface later in a dream.

My mind has a life of its own even after my eyes shut and I am temporarily disengaged from the physical world.

Yet lucid dreams, or dreams in which you know you are dreaming, can allow you to play out any stressful scenario to a successful conclusion – like taking an exam, running a race or confronting a problem – thereby positively influencing your waking life. And, if I think of a scenario from my day as I fall asleep, I can sometimes set the content of my dream.

I love being awake late at night at Notre Dame. A calm stillness comes over the campus, and I feel an eerie sense of camaraderie with those who are still awake.

Lately I have found myself at the library around 1:30 a.m. on the fourth floor doing research for an English paper. On multiple occasions I have heard muffled classical music coming from the office to the right of the elevator.

I peer into the small window in the door, and in the reddish soft light at the end of a room surrounded with bookshelves, I see an older man reading a newspaper and tapping his foot to the rhythm. I am tempted to talk to him.

Maybe I will in my dreams.