I’m at that wonderful transition point in life when getting a good night’s rest is a challenge. Between bouts with insomnia and bursts of warmth, I feel fortunate to get a good six hours of sleep. So, I’m not a real happy camper when the husband has a nightmare that startles me from a deep sleep.
He doesn’t have nightmares often, but when he does he kicks, punches and makes scary noises. We have a king size bed, but that’s not enough space to spare me from the occasional forceful contact. So, as I’m scurrying to my edge of the bed I’m somewhat loudly calling his name and saying in a very reassuring voice, “It’s okay!” But is that the right thing to do from a medical point of view?
According to an article on Self Magazine’s website by Harry Lodge, M.D., the answer is no, and yes.
“You may think you’re rescuing your bedmate from misery, but rousing someone simply means he’ll need several frustrating minutes (or longer) to calm down and get back to sleep. The truth is nightmares are normal. They’re the brain’s way of processing what you experienced or thought about (whether consciously or not) during the day. Now, if the person lashes out, bangs his head against the wall or does anything else physically dangerous to himself or you, it’s probably a good idea to gently wake him.”
Gently? Not sure that would work!
Dr. Lodge also dismisses the premise that awakening someone from a nightmare can cause a heart attack. He didn’t comment on whether your nightmares could cause your spouse to have a heart attack, however. I know this spouse’s ticker is thumping at a pretty good rate!
Since neither of us has suffered any lasting harm, I think I’ll continue to wake him in my usual manner and from a distance – for the husband’s well-being and mine.