Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The weirdness before sleep

Tycho of Penny Arcade writes:
When I can't sleep, typically because I'm being colonized by a microorganism, I often have Puzzle Dreams. They are not good things to have. I think I've described them here at some point: they occur in a kind of no-place, and involve a series of interlocking wooden pieces of differing grains and textures that must be fit together in a specific way. I don't actually know how to solve any of them, my mind is just outputting this crap in some twilight state. I never see the solution, I just know that it was solved somehow - and then it's on to the next infinitely complex space.
I have a similar thing where I perpetually solve these infernal sort-of puzzles, which are often inflected by whatever game I've been recently playing most often. Also sometimes I see swirls of color and heat. Also sometimes I feel as if my body is swelling very quickly, and rapidly rising. What happens to your brain and body under these circumstances?


  1. I do puzzles too; it's usually pretty directly related to specific puzzle games (like Tetris or now Critter Crunch), but it can also be entirely new. When it's a specific game, my ability to solve it seems to relate to my mood and my degree of sleepiness; if I'm in a bad mood or far from sleep, the puzzles can't be solved or end in the worst possible ways; if I'm in a better mood or close to sleep I get long strings of small, technically impressive combos. The rules are never actually in place; I just know I'm doing really well or really poorly and I get little jolts of happy or sad feeling.

    Most of the time it's puzzles, but when it's not it's usually different perceptions of sound--I'll hear something that sounds like gunshot that's actually my pillow, or I'll hear music that's actually my pillow. The weirdest thing for me is when I make involuntary sleep noises but understand I'm making them from beginning to end. Like, I have no control over them, but I'm aware of them totally.

    The only full-body thing I can think of is that sometimes falling asleep feels like actually falling and it wakes me back up.

  2. I get this same awful effect from games in which you can edit environments. I spent a sickly Saturday a few weekends ago in a level editor and through the night in my dreams I constructed an endlessly tall tower and woke and tried to build the thing and felt sicker than ever.

    For me in these dreams or half-dreams there's always a sense of wakefulness like I'm not really under and also a sense of urgency.