Sounds are one of the most invasive things into our dreams. But rather than wake us up, sounds often become incorporated into our dream, the external sound woven into the fabric of the dream as though it really belonged there. This can be the sound of an alarm that instead of waking us as planned, we hear and try to make sense of. This may result in us actually “hearing” the strange sound of a fire engine in the distance, someone in the traffic honking their horn, or even in some bizarre cases, the words that some dream character speaks to us. Perhaps even stranger is that we might even understand their weird braying alarm noise voice. Noises like roadworks, storms, parties at the neighbour’s house, can all slip into our dreams.
These kind of external influences that creep in from the outside to dominate our dreams may have a particular meaning, but often they are simply a distraction. If the alarm goes off in the morning, and instead of waking we dream of a fire engine, that is not to say that fire engine has any special significance in our waking life, other than the fact that at a subconscious level, we have a sense of urgency. We know deep down we need to wake, as that is why we set the alarm in the fist place. It is fascinating that our dreaming mind won’t simply create a dream image that seems to match the sound we are physically hearing, but also one that portrays the relevant emotion. Thus, when we fail to wake at the alarm, the fire engine we dream of doesn’t just sound like a fire engine, but also creates tension and a sense of urgency in our sleep. This “emergency” feeling, combined with the persistence of the sound, may be enough to wake us as we had intended. This is almost like an “emergency exit” from our dream.
We may hear voices and music from a party, and actually dream we amongst those people in the party. Or we may be having a relatively normal dream of an adventure through the countryside, when the road works outside cause us to dream they are laying a new road right through the forrest we are in. If there is no urgency, we simply fall back into deep sleep when the noise subsides, but if it persists long enough we are likely to wake. And it is likely our dreams will become increasingly distorted or frustrating until we do. This is the external waking world overwhelming the relaxed sleeping mind.
In a similar way, we can use pleasant sounds to induce pleasant dreams. Going to sleep with the calming sound of waves or the wind in the trees may not just result ina tranquil rest, but can also help seed images of the sea and nature into our sleeping mind. Particular music may have different effects as well, depending on our emotional reaction to it.
However, sometimes this kind of continual external influence is enough to stop us from dropping into deep sleep. This makes it more likely we will have dreams, but may result in feeling tired the next day. Noises outside that keep us on the edge of waking and sleeping can also help to elicit lucid dreams in those who seek them.
The important thing to remember is that though our dreams can be invaded by the external stimulus of sound, this does not necessarily mean our dream symbols in such cases have any relevance beyond the sound itself. And that while sounds that can cause us tension may distort our dreams, pleasant sounds can be a useful tool to relaxation and dreams we enjoy. We can’t turn off our ears even in sleep, and it is a good thing to know that if we need to wake up when we hear a certain noise, our dreaming mind will make sure we can’t ignore the sound, and that we will wake up.