i'm sleep-talking!

Dear Kathleen -

It sounds like you may be experiencing a bit of what is known as “REM Behavior Disorder.” When we dream at night, the body works fairly hard to prevent us from “acting out our dreams.” Thus, our muscle tone is inhibited so that we can’t stand up and walk around - (or jump or fly or whatever else we may be doing in our dreams) and typically also we are unable to talk during our dreams (in your case scream) - or else we all would be vocalizing our dreams all night long.

Sleep talking typically is not considered anything that a doctor would want to treat per se. It simply is not that disruptive of sleep. If you feel that your sleep disturbance is greater than this, you may want to check with a sleep physician in your area, who can take a history and decide whether or not you are a candidate to spend a night in a sleep lab, where the level of your disturbance to sleep can be monitored. Usually it is only the people who have severe cases of REM Behavior Disorder - who get out of bed and act out their dreams (and who consequently run into dressers, closets and closed doors - and occasionally out windows), who are treated. In these cases, the failure of the body to suppress motor activity during REM (Dreaming) sleep is near complete, and the dreamer really is at risk for injuring him or her self. It is quite possible that if you are continually tired during the day, this disturbance to REM sleep may be responsible. It is also possible that another type of sleep disorder is causing this tiredness. (See Sleep Apnea in the Sleep Disorders section).

As for the latter part of your dream question, you certainly are not alone in being confused about dreaming about old boyfriends and male friends, especially when, by your own description, you are quite content in your life at this time. Dreams are valuable to us because they show us what we are thinking about and feeling on an unconscious level. If the dreams bother you, then take the time to figure out why you are dreaming about these people. Are you dreaming of them because you are sexually attracted to them, or is your relationship with these people in some other way incomplete? If you are attracted to them and this bothers you, you need to recognize the attraction, and, at the same time, gauge who your priorities are in your life. If your husband is your number one priority, then you will have to let these sleeping dogs lay. After a while the bark will not be so loud. If, on the other hand, you feel your relationship with these other men is incomplete, you either are going to have to accept that this is “how it is” - or you can undertake the process of trying to have completion with these people - at risk of causing your husband, most likely, some significant level of confusion and emotional upset. In any event, if I were you, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to rock your boat. You sound happy and open in your letter, and you should value whatever it is in your life that gives you these qualities.

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