ASK DR. SLEEP (May 2009)


  1. My uncle had a stroke after he just woke up from his sleep. A few days ago our neighbor had stroke in his sleep. I am 62 y/o and I fear that I might have stroke in my sleep. Bed time is now a scare thing for me. Who, when and why might have stroke in sleep?

Leo, Alabama.

  1. Many disorders are associated with a sleep time and stroke is among them.

As we know, during sleep stages blood pressure varies significantly, especially in the REM stage. If the person has hypertension, his blood pressure swings up and down more frequently and more dramatically, up to the point of braking small blood vessels. REM sleep is more prominent in the morning and sudden increase of blood pressure is maximal during the time of awakening. This is a reason why many strokes are happened during this time. Early morning hours are also frequent time for other cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks.

On the positive side, as we learned about critical timing we  could be more prepared to prevent such troubles. First, you need to work with your doctor to keep blood pressure under control, may be to take some blood pressure medications before sleep time. Second, diabetes and other medical problems might cause blood pressure jumping in sleep. Among the most common causes of night strokes is obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (stop breathing in sleep). Even if you, George, have described above risk factors, you need just take care of them. Excessive worries and fears are not helpful. The possibility of getting  stroke is  equal to the possibility of getting into a car accident. As much as you need to be a careful driver, you need to be a careful to your sleep and health.

Q.  Dear Dr. Sleep,
For about three months I see the same dreams that are very violent. Mostly, they Are about my ex husband. We are in the process of bad divorce and I hate him, but I am upset about myself. In my dreams I am killing him with a knife, rolling over him with a big truck, or pushing him to sharks. I am waking up in sweat and with my heart pounding, and for a few second believe that it was real.But I am not violent and never was. What people will think of me? What should I do to get read of them?

Call me Maria S. Chicago, Il

  1. Dear Maria,

Violent dreams do not mean that you are a violent person. Dreams might have a compensatory function. To say it simply, they help you to ventilate your anger.

One Chicago sleep researcher Rosalind Cartwright did a study on dreams of women in divorce. The results showed that women who had violent dreams less frequently developed depression and faster recovered from divorce than women without dreams.

Divorce in general, and in America specifically, is extremely emotionally and financially traumatic and dragging process. It is by all means the most stressful thing of the modern days, and our body “calls in” all internal reserves.

Dreams are one of the most potent brain strategies and reserves to cope with extreme stress. Do not worry; your dreams will stop with your divorce resolution. Your own attorney might cure your dreams ending the divorce process.

Good luck.