Calgary

It's not uncommon to act out dreams in reality, doctor says after woman swallows diamond ring

A California woman made headlines last week after swallowing her 2.4 carat diamond engagement ring in a dream — only to awake and find she had also gulped it down in reality. A Calgary doctor says the scenario isn't as unusual as one might think.

Up to 1 in 20 adults experience parasomnia, while it's far more common among children

Dr. Charles Samuels says Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary has treated patients who have done all sorts of 'bizarre' actions in reality while dreaming they were doing the same things. (Charles Samuels)

A California woman made headlines last week after swallowing her 2.4 carat diamond engagement ring in a dream — only to awake and find she had also gulped it down in reality.

Yet Dr. Charles Samuels says it's not as unusual as people might think for someone to act out their dreams as they're happening, in real life.

Samuels is president of the Canadian Sleep Society and medical director of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary.

He says the centre has treated patients who have done all sorts of "bizarre" actions in reality while dreaming they were doing the same things — including cutting themselves, jumping out of windows, driving cars and riding bicycles.

He says that type of behaviour is often prevalent among people that are pre-disposed to parasomnia — a partial arousal from sleep that can result in sleepwalking, sleeptalking, sleep paralysis and other manifestations.

"Memory is in a way lost in these events," he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

"And they often don't remember the content of the dream. They just know that something happened and in many cases they don't know anything."

Samuels said parasomnia isn't that uncommon in the population, occurring to between two and five per cent of adults.

  • Read the full story of what happened to the Californian who swallowed her ring in her Facebook post below:

The physician says the condition is often hereditary and can be triggered by alcohol, sleep deprivation, drugs, stimulants, sedatives or stress.

"You have to figure out what the triggers are and then manage those triggers … so they could be have a predisposition to very light disturbed sleep or like an insomniac and they could have a sleep disorder," he said.

It's a different story when it comes to children. Sleepwalking is considered normal up to age 12 and happens to 40 or 50 per cent of children, he says.

"That has to do with the development of the sleep and wake state. It's just not fully developed in childhood and adolescence so they might act out on dreams and whatnot," he said.

While there is medication that can help with extreme cases of parasomnia, Samuels says the best way to cure it for adults is for a physician to examine a patient's sleep cycle and triggers.

  • Have you or someone you know ever done anything in real life while dreaming you were doing that action? Share your story with us in the comments section below or on CBC Calgary's Facebook page.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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