Sleeping With the Enemy

After all, Bob has been meditating for 35 years, so he says he considers himself healthy and peaceful.

But when night hits, sometimes those peaceful, daytime thoughts turn violent.

"I'm watching a flock of ducks on the water. They're just swimming around there. And at some point they started coming toward me." That's when Bob says he felt he was in danger. "They [the ducks] were going to attack me."

The battle in his brain is also being played out in the bed.

"I was absolutely sound asleep and he suddenly kicked me. I mean really hard," Lori says.

Bob was eventually diagnosed with REM Behavior Disorder or RBD -- a condition that occurs in the REM stage of sleep.

"In REM sleep the brain is very active. We dream. But otherwise the skeletal muscles, the muscles of the arms and legs are paralyzed and that's the normal state of REM. It's almost a protective effect to be paralyzed so that we cannot move during that state," Foldvary says.

But in people with Bob's sleep disorder -- the natural mechanism that causes paralysis during sleep fails.

Foldvary explains that people like Bob are "acting" on a dream. "They're not waking up. They thrash around. They may consider the wife an enemy."

Precursor to Other Disorders

Researchers have begun linking the odd behaviors of RBD to other, even more serious neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson's disease.

"What is clearly coming out is that REM behavior disorder appears eight to 10 to 15 years before patients develop Parkinson's disease," Foldvary says.

Foldvary says violent sleep can "absolutely" be a precursor to other disorders.

This is a daunting thought for Bob. "It's extremely scary to think that five years from now, or 10 years from now, I'm going to be progressing through stages of Parkinson's disease," he says.

In the meantime, Bob has tried medications that help most RBD sufferers and together, he and Lori have tried a host of practical ideas to keep Bob sleeping and Lori safe. They put a row of pillows between them. They moved from a double bed to a queen-size bed and then to twin beds.

But none of these remedies stopped the RBD completely.

"I kicked her right across the gap between us," Bob says.

So for now, Bob keeps on with his meditation sessions, contemplating the night when he and Lori no longer have to be such strange bedfellows.

"Every single night we say to each other, 'Have a good night, dear.' And it's almost a joke because, we don't," Lori says. "But you know, at least you always hope."

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