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What is the best word to use in the following sentence? Any other words or expressions that can be used?

  • That day as well he had barely woken up after a night spent tossing and turning in a nightmare.
  • That day as well he had barely woken up after a night spent flailing in a nightmare.
  • That day as well he had barely woken up after a night spent floundering in a nightmare.
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I have removed what appeared to be unattributed, unidentified, and uncalled for dictionary definitions. First of all, always clearly name your sources. Always. Secondly, always clearly format quotations as such. Lastly, every quotation must serve a purpose. Quoting a dictionary definition makes sense if you go on to specify what you take from it, but failing to do so renders it utterly pointless. After all, people know what flailing means (or they can look it up themselves in a dictionary of their choice, though in that case they are not really qualified to answer this question anyway). – RegDwigнt Mar 31 '13 at 17:46
Just by the way, it's not an English usage point, but it's scientifically impossible for a single dream (nightmare or otherwise) to last all night. – gmcgath Mar 31 '13 at 18:35

"Floundering" definitely doesn't work. It implies being at a loss for what to do, which isn't what you want here. "Tossing and turning" sounds a little clichéd, and I'd associate it with mere restlessness rather than nightmares. Of the three, "flailing" is the best, suggesting a helpless struggle.

I'd put a comma after "as well."

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The word restless might work:

(adj) unable to stay still or quiet; ceaselessly active or moving: the restless wind; worried; anxious; uneasy; not restful; without repose: a restless night (Dictionary.com)

"Restless" isn't very vivid, so some alternate synonyms might be preferable:

  1. turbulent
  2. tormented
  3. tortured
  4. tortuous
  5. uneasy
  6. unpeaceful
  7. agitated
  8. fitful

Any of these can be substituted here:

"That day as well, he had barely woken up after a turbulent night."

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