Sunday, March 23, 2014

Strange Sleep

This morning I was woken by a migraine. Not the cluster headaches that sometimes waken me, but a “regular” migraine, on the right side.

I got up, had some strong tea and two Advil, and fought off the nausea. I considered whether I’d be able to manage getting up and out on time to sing in the church choir; an early call this morning meant that I’d have to hurry. Waves of pain and more nausea made the decision for me. I was able to send off a text to the substitute choir director, then fell back to bed as the usual migraine-induced sleepiness crept over me.

Then the oddest thing happened.

I really wanted to sleep. With this sort of headache, sleep is the only thing that will really clear it out. But real sleep did not come to me.

Instead, I drifted into the strangest semi-conscious state, what might be called a sort of lucid unconsciousness.

Usually when I lie with eyes closed, drifting toward sleep, I “see” blackness “inside” my eyes, sometimes with flashes of light or drifting patches of color. Today, with eyes closed, I “saw” nothing – just grey, blank stillness, so blank it was like a grey wall. I was aware of my surprise at the blankness, but I was unable to do anything except notice the stillness and notice my inability to see. (Is that what blindness is like? Was I temporarily blind? Was this a manifestation of the migraine, or of something else…?)

I was also exquisitely aware of my body, lying perfectly still. Normally with sleep or near-sleep, one moves slightly, adjusting to find the most comfortable position. During this episode, I did not move at all, not even a fraction of an inch … this was utter stillness and immobility. I could feel my heart beating, and was aware of my breathing, but otherwise it was as if I were carved of some warm, light, living stone. I didn’t feel heavy or inert, only very still and immobile. (I wonder: could I have moved, had I tried? Was I in a state of paralysis? Was this, too, part of the migraine? Was it real?)

At some point I must have passed into actual sleep, for I awoke about an hour later with the headache mostly gone (it lingers still, like a burn on the side of my head) and feeling somewhat refreshed.


The feeling of this strange sleep has clung to me all day … what was it? I don’t think it was a dream, as one has during sleep. I was clearly awake during the episode; I was aware of sounds in real time, such as passing cars, the cat breathing and snoring occasionally, the bird clock’s cardinal singing at 9:00 a.m., the neighbors’ dog barking, and the sounds of real birds outside.

It was a perfect state of suspension….of nothingness, of perfect neutral restfulness. I found myself regretful that it ended. Will it ever happen again? Could I make it happen? How? Under what conditions? Can it happen only during migraine? Is the perfect neutral restfulness worth the pain?


  1. I've never had, afaia, a migraine. I'm not prone to headaches (or they're so minor that they can't compete with the other aches and pains--I have LOTS of that stuff) only occasionally having one. But...I get nauseous for several hours at a time for so many days in a row that I think it will last forever, then it's gone. No doctor I've ever talked to has any idea why I get nauseous. My health is reasonably good and the nausea has nothing to do with diet, my pharma or anything else that I can put a finger on. I'm going to mention your experience with migraines the next time I see the docs. Thanks for posting that.

  2. I'm sorry you don't feel well. It's can be depressing to live with a chronic discomforty.
    Have you considered an inner ear disorder, such as vertigo? That might induce nausea.
    I hope you can figure it out and feel better soon.


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