a big part of my insomnia is falling asleep - i have a hard time doing it. once i get to sleep, staying there is the next challenge. while better now than in previous years (17-19, i thought i really was going to go crazy), i very often have nightmares. not night terrors, just horribly disturbing dreams that create enough physical stress to pretty much negate any benefits of the sleep i was getting. this would normally last for one or two sleep cycles, then i would get up, only to crash four hours later for a cycle, then start my day. when i started with insomnia, i was averaging 4 hours, skipping some nights, getting more others, and living on coffee and tobacco. it was not a pleasant time.
a lot of the work i have done on lucid dreaming helped change this cycle. i can honestly say i average about 5 hours a night now, still skipping occasionally, but occasionally pulling a 6 hour night here and there, which is pretty tremendous!
the way that lucid dreaming helps is that i have been able to get to the point where, once i realize something is a dream, i can usually twist it into my grip, then either end it, or change it. while this is not 100% effective, it is, i'd say, probably 80% on spot. my thoughts are that if i can ever regularly attain the sleep-within-sleep stage of control, i will have complete mastery over my dreams. to date, i have only accomplished this three times, and never with "conscious" input on the matter.
most of the exceptions come in two forms - dreams born out of emotional issues currently plaguing me, featuring me as the protagonist, and dream chains. the emotional stuff is my brain trying to catch up with my psyche, so i don't really think i will ever be able to control those 100%, but they are a very small fraction of the 1/5th of the dreams i can't control. dream chains are a real kick in the pants.
a dream chain is where you have several dreams, either back to back, or in between wakeups, all of which surround the same central plot, idea, and oftentimes characters. sometimes links in the chain countermand previous links, sometimes they strengthen them. in either case, what happens is you get a chain of dream echoes, which reinforce the walls of reality surrounding the dream you are currently in. the longer the chain, the harder it is to realize the dream as a dream, and, beyond that, it is about 10 times harder to wrest control of the dream.
i was a devout onieromancer for a time, keeping copious dream journals, and cross-hashing imagery and symbols. my dream chains always bespoke of another reality inside my head, one which i cannot say i am wholly comfortable providing housing for. between mystical and plain old psychological analysis, i can definitely say that dream chains are the bane of my conscious and unconscious life.
the reason is that i rarely get a solid chunk of sleep at all. i went to bed at around 12:30 this morning, and i got a good gander at my clock ticking by every 37-49 minutes for about 30 minutes or so until i finally couldn't take it any more.
recent dream chains include:
-a mutant spore which was capable of infesting people's brains through the ear canal, resulting in eventual death, but a whole lot of PCP-esque insanity prior to death
-a serial killer who was capable of turning blood to slush by touch, which resulted in the agonizing explosion of one's heart. i got to alternate between victims, the killer, and the persons hunting him
-a starship freight liner carrying cruise passengers to a faraway resort. the liner's suspension systems are discovered to have been contaminated by a horrible disease, which has infected everyone but the crew. we have to awaken each passenger, extract vital information about where they were staying, who they were visiting, set up a will, etc, then kill them. the crew is awake, and becomes a cult over generations of awakening and killing.
-a horrible repetition of warping the events of the past few years, so much so that i woke up from the last dream almost in tears at a possible twist in the pattern.
-an entire series of antichrist origins, surrounding all manners of cults and demons/devils/angels. i did not figure out the link until the second to last dream. the devil was using "survival of the fittest" to determine who would carry his mantle into this world - essentially unleashing dozens of potential antichrists into the soup to duke it out.
as awesome as these sound as horror/scifi novels, comic books, or scifi channel series, i assure you, that when you re being subjected to the chapters of them in between small spates of sleep, which end up being not at all restful, they get increasingly disturbing as things progress.
the worst part is that i am now scared to try and induce chemically-assisted sleep, since that precludes my ability to wake myself up, and often creates some very vivid dreams. that combitation, at this point, would probably snap my brain stem or something.