I Dreamed That I Was Walking

I Dreamed That I Was Walking

When asleep, many people dream they can fly. Some dream about being naked in public, failing an exam, or (gasp!) about sex. Last night, I dreamed that I was walking.

I have that walking dream a couple of times a year. I’m walking along and all of a sudden, I realize that I’ve left my two canes behind. My short dream last night, however, was better than usual. I dreamed that I had run up a flight of stairs. I’d bounded up those steps so quickly that I was out of breath. Then I walked away, as if my MS never existed. Unfortunately, I woke up.

In the MS Facebook groups that I frequent, people report a wide variety of sleep experiences. Some say they never remember their dreams. Others, like me, find that they’re able-bodied in their dreams.

Interestingly, I can’t remember ever having a dream where I’ve had trouble walking or have used a mobility aid. In my dreams, I’m never handicapped. An article in Psychology Today tells us that “dreams are frequently interesting, and can allow people to act out certain scenarios that would never be possible in real life.” That’s what I’m doing.

Is there a dream connection to MS?

Some of the people in the Facebook groups report that their dreams have changed since their MS diagnosis. They say their dreams have become more vivid and realistic.

I’ve searched for a study that investigated whether a connection might exist between MS and dreams, but I’ve not been successful in finding one. The closest I have come is a brief article from 2013 in the Iranian Journal of Neurology. Its author believes that, because dreaming is a kind of cognitive process, “MS may influence patients’ dreams. … We do not know what the importance of dream is in MS, but further studies may introduce dream and dreaming as a sign of improvement or progression in MS disease.”

I don’t buy into that hypothesis, but here’s another interesting possibility. Information on the National Sleep Foundation website reports that “people with narcolepsy often report having vivid, bizarre, or disturbing dreams.” Narcoleptics are people who have trouble staying awake during the daytime. They sleep poorly at night, may have cognitive problems, and may be on medications that could have an impact on their cognitive functions. That sounds like some of us with MS.

What are your dreams like?

Do you, like me, regularly dream of walking like a normal person? Or does your handicap appear in your dreams? Do you have vivid or disturbing dreams? Do people with a different chronic illness, such as pulmonary fibrosis, see themselves as disease-free when they dream? If you’ve talked with a healthcare professional about your dreams, what have you been told?

Do you think there’s a connection between having MS and the way that you dream?

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
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Ed Tobias is a retired broadcast journalist. Most of his 40+ year career was spent as a manager with the Associated Press in Washington, DC. Tobias was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1980 but he continued to work, full-time, meeting interesting people and traveling to interesting places, until retiring at the end of 2012.
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13 comments

  1. Cyndi says:

    Yep, I too have (and love) those same “walking, running, realizing OMG I left my canes somewhere, and then thinking oh well, I don’t need them anymore!”. What the heck, a nice respite from reality…and maybe a small subconscious push to keep fighting for what might be again. Wishful thinking, but why not.

  2. TODD KOERNER says:

    I was drawn to this story because I have random dreams where I will run like I used to, but can no longer able do. It’s such a great feeling, but leaves me melancholy when I wake to face the things MS has taken from me.

  3. Jeff says:

    I’ve always had really interesting dreams. Usually I forget them in hours, and a few have haunted me forever. Some dreams I’ve had many times; some surrealistic, and some just weird.

    I’ve been in a Power Chair for ten years now and always I’m walking with real legs in my dreams; just like when I was a kid; no cane, no limp – a real person.

    I’ve always wondered if others ‘walk’ in their dreams. Thanks for the post.

  4. Pamela Michel says:

    MS has never been part of my dreams. I am always totally able bodied. Although I am in an electric wheelchair now, the first 32 years with MS had no mobility issues. Perhaps that is why I never see it in my dreams? Hmmmm

  5. RG says:

    Ed Tobias, I did find one research article regarding dreams of walking in those who cannot, that may be of interest to you. Here is the summary:

    “Why do paralysed people dream of walking? The researchers dismiss the psychoanalytic idea that the dreams are an expression of a subconscious wish. They argue that people with paraplegia are open about their desires to walk, and that their dreams are not dominated by walking to the extent you’d expect if they were compensating for lack of walking in waking life (in fact their dreams contained less walking than the control participants). Saurat and her colleagues suggest instead that walking in dreams may have an adaptive function: helping “consolidate the relevant neuronal mapping … Notably, motor imagery training improves the movement performance of the intact muscles and increases basal ganglia activation in subjects with spinal cord injury.””

    Apparently, walking and the associated muscle movements are long ingrained in human’s brains. Dreams of walking often are accompanied by physical movement in the dreamer. Perhaps this sheds some light on these dreams for you all.

    https://digest.bps.org.uk/2011/11/17/paraplegics-walk-in-their-dreams/

  6. Pauline Phelps says:

    When I dream I am always able bodied. The last time I was walking to the doctor’s surgery when I realised I had left my walker behind.

  7. Steve says:

    I find it difficult to enter into REM sleep and then to dream. Visits to the bathroom and inability to find a comfortable sleep position are contributors. Anyone else have less productive sleep?

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Add me to those folks, Steve. I toss and turn a lot in addition to the BR trips (which, thankfully, aren’t as numerous as they once were). I haven’t had a really good night’s sleep in decades.

      Ed

  8. Jeff says:

    Ed, and anyone with these sleep issues:

    I fought the nap-doze routine for years until my doctor prescribed Temazepam 30mg. I’ve taken it for over a year without problems. I now get 6+ hours sleep almost every night. That changed my life. Talk to your doctor. It doesn’t seem to affect my dreams; the’re still as weird as always.

    Also, I keep a small urinal by the bed; I hardly even have to wake up.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Thanks for the info, Jeff. I’ll ask my neuro about it but doing some quick research on my own I discovered that Temazepam is recommended for short-term use, e.g. 7-10 days. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable using it over a long period of time.

      Ed

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