Oh, you just had to get me started on dreams! The best dream I have is one in which I jump really high and find that I can keep myself aloft, for a few minutes, almost flying, but not quite as effortlessly as soaring through the air. There is a feeling of lightness and freedom accompanying the dream. Mostly, though, good dreams seem to disappear from my memory almost immediately. Holding on to them is like trying to grasp a wisp of fog in the palm of my hand.
The nightmares, however, can stay with me for a lifetime. For years I had two recurring nightmares. In one of them I would look up at the sky and see row after row of enemy aircraft flying low overhead, accompanied by feelings of fear and dread. These could be a result of growing up during the cold war and the Cuban missile crisis, which sent us cowering under our desks during air raid drills at school, praying that the flimsy desktop would protect us from nuclear annihilation.
In the second recurring dream, I was climbing a steep path in a cavern, and I knew something evil lurked at the end, but could not stop myself from moving toward it. Never quite got there, though. Did I fear something waiting to befall me, or fear releasing something evil inside me? Possibly a result of my Catholic upbringing and the fear of the devil’s temptations.
When most people dream, which is during REM sleep, their bodies are actually paralyzed from moving because these dreams are so vivid that without this, one can act out the dreams in reality. Such is the fate of many of us with Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep disorders. Thus, I have bad dreams that are so vivid, I thrash about, talk in my sleep (an interesting aside for any psychologists reading this and trying to figure me out, when I try to talk in the dream, my voice is very low, I can barely be heard. This occurs when I am actually talking out loud in the real world), wake up screaming, or the worst one, when I jumped out of bed, still asleep, and only woke up as I felt myself falling and my husband calling to me. I had crashed into the corner of the wall in my bedroom, ending up with a black eye and a bloody nose. In my dream, I was walking with friends down a dark road, and coming toward us was a man swinging a sharp hook at the end of rope in a menacing fashion. We panicked and tried to run away as fast as we could. They made it safely away. I hit a wall.
This incident changed my sleeping life forever. REM sleep disorders or lucid dreaming are related to Parkinson’s disease itself, but can be intensified by some of the meds I take. I discontinued the dopamine agonist medicine I was taking, which helps with my tremor, as soon as I could. Coming off that med was no picnic in the park. Fortunately, my bedroom is on the first floor, so the danger of falling down stairs was not a concern. I bought a body sized pillow, weighted it down with books and now I sleep wedged in between the pillow (I have named Dudley) and my husband. I figure I would wake up by the time I was able to extricate myself from my snug little nest.
In addition, I did some research and found out that another med I was taking for anxiety was the treatment of choice for this sleep problem. So I consulted with my doctors, and we changed the times I take the meds to just before med.Then I bought a couple of sleep solution cds, one called Sleep Solutions by Roberta Shapiro and Deep Sleep Every Night by Glenn Harrold. I listen to one of the tracks on the cds every night before bed. They assure me I can control my dreams. My mantra is “silent, still, sleep.”
This, together with a spritz of lavender on my pillow, and my dream catcher hanging by my bed has makes it possible for me to dream mostly benign dreams. If I have a bad dream, I wake up like normal people do. I guess the enemy planes and whatever was lurking in that cave have been relegated to the “nightmares remembered only” ´file in my brain. My husband tells me I often laugh out loud in my sleep now, Sure beats going bump in the night.