Do You Dream in a Coma?

Often people confuse being in a coma as being asleep, but they are in no way near the same. A person sleeping can be awoken if you touch or talk to him/her. However, you cannot wake a person in coma in the same way. The person is so deep in unconsciousness, he/she cannot respond to sound or touch. While his/her brain is still working so that he/she can breathe, only basic human functions can be performed.

Do You Dream in a Coma?

A coma is medical condition that doctors are still trying to truly understand. The general meaning of the term is when a person is in a prolonged state of unconsciousness due to illness or injury. A comatose person does not respond to stimuli like light, sound or touch.

When a person dreams, you have specific brain signal patterns. A person in a coma usually has abnormal or irregular sleep patterns or none at all. Because of this, it is hard to determine if someone does dream or not while comatose. Some people have woken up recalling a dream-like state, while others say they remember nothing at all. Do you dream in a coma? Chances are if you do, it is probably in an altered manner that we do not understand.

What It Feels Like to Be in a Coma?

As it is quite hard to say if one would dream in a coma or not, let's hear what people who have been in a coma say.

I still remember the panic I felt when I was in a horrible motorcycle accident. I was unconsciousness for a couple of days. I was given continuous dosages of pain medication because of the injuries. In my altered state, I would imagine I was leaving ICU and then all of a sudden stars would appear. People around me were acting strangely. I would walk and then remember about my legs. I was paralyzed. I would fall as I tried to get out of the bed. It felt like the cycle went on forever. It was somehow neat yet sad all at once. The dream made me happy because I was walking, but then felt sorrow again realizing I was paralyzed.

One of our neighborhood kids had been in a really bad accident. It was so bad the doctors had to put him in a chemically-induced coma. Doctors said there was a chance he could hear sound so they told us to speak to him and play television shows and music that he liked. He liked listening to Elvis, so the legend's songs were constantly on. They played the songs so often that when the neighborhood boy woke up, he actually thought he was the King of Rock of Roll himself. It took him a long while to understand he was not the famous singer.

A friend had to be put under an induced coma when he was 16 due to serious complications of chemotherapy. They kept him in coma for about three months. One time I asked, "Do you dream in a coma?" He replied:

"I recall it being a really long dream. It started off scary. Dolls from a horror movie were chasing me and they were all trying to kill me. Eventually that part of the dream came to an end and then it transitioned to me dreaming of Jesus coming to me. He said he was ready to take me to heaven if I wanted to go. But my parents were there too and they wanted me to stay. I remember contemplating it for a long time. Finally I told Jesus I would go with him. But he looked at me with a grin and replied it was not my time to go. As he floated upward and traveled into a light in the sky, I remember being sad because I was ready. Then the dream ended and I woke up and three months had gone by."

My friend and his family were Catholic and active in their religion. He grew up and became a doctor.

Facts About Coma

Many conditions like serious brain trauma can cause a person to go into a coma. Other causes include stroke, infections, swelling of the brain, toxins, blood sugar fluctuations, bleeding in the brain and lack of oxygen to the brain. Also, a doctor may chemically induce a coma so a person can heal from severe injuries. Do you dream in a coma? That depends. Here're some other facts you might be interested.

Fact: The type of coma affects the outcome.

Coma is divided by type of injury and the level of consciousness a patient displays.

  • If a person's coma is caused by toxins or an infection, it can be resolved when the cause is treated.
  • When a brain is not getting enough oxygen, cells die so this type of coma is direr. This is often the case with people who suffer a stroke, heart attack, poisoning or drug overdose. The coma may become a persistent vegetative state, where the person cannot respond but his body still functions mostly on its own.
  • Another type of coma occurs when a person is totally paralyzed except for the muscles in the eyes. Although rare, it is called locked-in syndrome because the person is aware but cannot perform any functions except eye movement.
  • The last type of coma is called brain death because there is no brain function. The brain has died. Usually this is caused by very severe head trauma.

Fact: When coma ends, patients do not just wake up.

Movies like to show a person waking up from a coma and going straight back to their normal life. Doctors and researchers believe there are subtle signs that a person is trying to wake up. There may be small movements as the patient tries to communicate. When a person does wake up, he may be in a state of confusion, not knowing the date or recognizing where he is. Often, therapy is needed.

Fact: The duration of a coma varies.

The typical time a person might be in a coma is between two to four weeks. A lot depends on the severity of the injury and how bad the damage is. There are cases when a person is in a coma for several years, but on the other end of the spectrum a patient may only be comatose for a couple days. Actually, if the coma is due to a physical condition, it will likely resolve itself when the cause is treated and cured.

Fact: The duration and depth of the state of a coma can be measured.

There are two scales doctors use to measure a coma's depth and the estimated time it might last. The first scale is the Glasgow Coma Scale. It measures eye movements and responses to stimulus. The second scale is the Rancho Los Amigos Scale. It measures the overall function of a person and more specifically the functions of the brain. This helps determine how long the coma will last. These measurements may one day help determine if you do dream in a coma.