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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

I'm A Parasonmiac. At Least That's What I've Been Told

I'm a parasomniac. (At least, that's what two sleep specialists have diagnosed.) I've joined the ranks of sleep walkers, people beset by nightmares, sleep terrors. I don't get out of bed and head for the nearest window or door. I don't thrash, hit, or punch (Though I admit that there have been times when I've wanted to boot my husband.) I'm a night yeller. Yep, I scream out words like "Stop!", "Wait!", or "Rat fink." Don't ask. I'm not aware of the yelling, but my husband sure is. He's a light sleeper (Just my luck), wakes up immediately, and then shares the good news with me.

This yelling all started shortly after the 2016 election. I felt helpless, despondent, angry that millions of voters had been duped into seeing Trump as their savior. When I shared this with a sleep specialist, he shrugged his shoulders, shook his head. "There's not an ounce of a connection."

"Oh, yeah, then why has there been an uptick in depression, anxiety, fear since the election? I assume you've read the studies?"

"It has nothing to do with your parasomnia," he said.

Oh, yeah, well how about this for starters? I couldn't quote the entire article but gave the doctor a summary that was close enough.

In a July 24, 2019, Washington Post article titled "Donald Trump is Stressing Out America," the reporters write:

Researchers have begun to identify correlations between Trump’s election and worsening cardiovascular health, sleep problems, anxiety and stress, especially among Latinos in the United States.” One disturbing JAMA study looked at premature births, an easily quantifiable metric of stress during pregnancy.
It’s not just Latina women who are feeling the stress of America under Trump. The Boston Globe’s Zoe Greenberg reports that psychologists are having to treat a number of anxiety-related maladies . . . , including insomnia and hypervigilance. When they dig deeper, the underlying cause becomes apparent. . .

Duh! Take that.

He still was not swayed. Damn him.

My first yelling during sleep occurred in February, 2016, about a month after Trump took office. My dream was not what I'd label a nightmare. It was dark, and I was looking for my car, certain that I'd parked close by. Frustrated, I pushed my keyless key (Something about that name that doesn't make sense), but there was no beeping in response. Just then, some guy ran by and grabbed my purse. As anyone would do, I yelled "Stop!" Unfortunately, I yelled out loud, not in my sleep.

That was the beginning--not many more incidences for a time (maybe several months), but then the yelling started again. I was left behind by the rest of my family who drove off to the theater. ("Wait!) I picked up something on the floor of a boat that had been lost by an older man. (He must have been damn old.) When he got off the boat and didn't thank me, I yelled "Rat fink". "Rat fink?" Where the hell that come from? Never did I know that a character named Rat Fink had been created as an anti-hero to Mickey Mouse. Was I channeling good ole' Mickey? I love the guy with his cheerful optimism and mischievous streak. What was he doing in my dream?

Then there was the time that I was pissed with someone, hid behind a shower curtain, and kicked the guy the moment he walked by. That was the first time I moved during sleep. I think I faked it and told my husband that I was running a marathon.

I've seen a therapist--an accomplished woman with a list of satisfied patients. Alas, my insurance didn't cover the sessions and, after shelling out $130 for one session a week, I decided I'd rather save the money for an upcoming trip to Mexico.

I've had appointments with three sleep specialists. The first one wasn't concerned and did not suggest any treatment. The second, who also promoted his psychology degree, called what I had REM Behavior Disorder. My chances of dementia and hand tremors, he warned, were fifty per cent higher than the rest of the population. Crap! The treatment? Ten to fifteen milligrams of melatonin. Was he serious? That was enough to put a horse down. Then there was the third specialist I mentioned earlier who wanted me to have a sleep test ASAP. (More about that in an upcoming post.)

Now, I've read an abstract from a research paper titled "Disruptive nocturnal behavior in elderly patients: Could It Be A Parasomnia?" At age 74, am I considered as "elderly?" God, I hope not! I mean, I have some aches and pains, more wrinkles by the day, and do love to complain. I'm doing my best to adhere to the 60-second complaint rule that I detailed in an earlier post.

But given all the warnings and feedback from sleep specialists, today I will call doctor #4. That's it. Either I'm a parasomniac and must take medication or just a Drama Queen who, on occasion, wants everyone within shouting distance to know that I have stories worth sharing.

Stay tuned.


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