Ask Dr. Sleep: Strokes during sleep

  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 breaking 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,
maybe 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 careful about 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 seconds I
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 rid of them?

Call me Maria S. Chicago, Il

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.

Good luck!