The discovery of the REM stage of sleep as a girl navigates her way through two different worlds.


“I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” Layla exclaimed. Her best friend in college had accused Layla of telling her darkest secret to their entire friend group. Layla felt as if her life was going to end, but then suddenly she feels as if somebody is hitting her arm again and again.

As Layla slowly regains consciousness, she realizes that she’s back in her bedroom and the time is 5 a.m. on the dot. Feeling as if her heart is going to fall out of her chest, she continues to experience quick and irregular breathing. Slowly, she takes her finger to her neck and finds her pulse to be alarmingly high. As she lays numb on her navy bedding, she thinks to herself, “That was too real. That was too real.” 

After deciding that she can’t fall asleep, Layla walks over to her stairs and sits down on the top step. Taking her head in her hands, she starts to calm her breathing by repeating the exercise that her therapist taught her. 

6 months ago

“Layla, close your eyes. Imagine you are in a room filled with your favorite things. Think of the good times. Think of your lovely friends and supporting family,” Dr. Erin says. Layla slowly closes her eyes and then takes a deep breath, counts to 3, and exhales with a sigh.

Present

As Layla takes in the dark walls of her house, she realizes that she has to fight this “alternate world” she has been living in. She knows that she has to take this upon herself, because nobody else in her life is able to understand what she is going through. After much thought, Layla puts a video camera on her dresser, so she can document what she goes through every night. Since she was busy working on this setup, Layla lost track of time until five minutes before she had to get ready for school. It’s not like school was anything different than what I experienced a couple of hours ago. 

As Layla gets out of her car, people start whispering around her and make nasty comments. She gets called a freak, trash, and a loser. Layla walks in with her head down and AirPods in to avoid the belittling comments. Just as she is about to enter her first period classroom, she sees her best friend running up to her with an expression of pure anger and disgust. 

“Hey Katie! I haven’t seen you in so long,” Layla says, waving.

“Shut up, we need to talk!” exclaims Katie. Katie takes Layla by the hand and starts screaming at Layla for spilling her biggest secret to their best friend, and Layla just stares at her with a surprised expression. 

Layla knows that she didn’t spill Katie’s secret, but Katie won’t listen to her. And then it hits. Layla realizes she already encountered this same experience earlier this morning. The only difference was that she stood  wearing gray sweats and a dull pink sweatshirt, and in her alternate “world”, she was wearing a maxi dress and suede wedges. She is still trying to process this when Katie slaps Layla across the face and walks away. 

What! Stunned, Layla has no choice but to sit inside the classroom for the next 3 hours, sulking in the back row. 

Layla finally arrives at her house at around 8 p.m., after having back to back classes at school and then working at her local grocery store for the next 4 hours. As she quickly fixes up her dinner, she is once again thinking about what happened in school today and is unable to stop thinking about it. She still feels as if she is living in her dream and is surprised to see the similarity between both the “worlds”. She also feels as if she is about to faint any second, due to her brain being so exhausted and confused in regards to what is happening.

She finally finishes her food, takes a lengthy shower and gets ready for bed. After setting up the video camera, she takes a couple of sleeping pills to make her fall asleep faster. When the lights go out, she immediately knocks out.

In the alternate world.

Layla is walking once again the hallways of her college and everyone is still gossiping about her. She attempts to put on a hoodie to cover her face, but as she reaches for her hoodie, she realizes that she’s wearing a dress and heels. Layla feels a freezingshock of living in between both these worlds because the situation is so eerily similar to her days at school.

Present

“What was that!” Layla exclaims as she suddenly wakes awake and sits up on her bed. Her leg and arm keep on twitching and she feels light headed. But then she remembers that her video camera has been recording everything, and as she watches the replay, Layla sees herself twitching in her sleep and moves her body as if she is acting out the dream. 

Layla realizes that Google will probably have the best solution to all of this, and as she googles this situation, she finds out that her “alternate world” was actually the REM stage of sleep, which is where the most vivid dreams occur for all humans. And all the irregular breathing and increased heart rate were all characteristics of this REM stage, and she slowly inhales and exhales. This happens to everyone and it’s not just me. Layla thinks this to herself and finds comfort that she isn’t the only one. According to her research, her dreams during this stage of sleep can be very similar to actually what might go through one’s life, with almost every single detail being similarly illustrated. With a sigh of relief, she falls back onto her bed and returns to sleep.

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