My Jekyll and Hyde husband: Wife tells of lecturer's sleep disorder that makes him lash out at her in his dreams
06:48 GMT, 2 July 2012
/07/01/article-2167438-13BBEAA2000005DC-842_634x463.jpg” width=”634″ height=”463″ alt=”Solution: Mike and Linda Howley are coping with the disorder by sleeping in different beds with a chest of drawers between them” class=”blkBorder” />
Solution: Mike and Linda Howley are coping with the disorder by sleeping in different beds with a chest of drawers between them
He’ll kick or punch me in the night, leaving me with a massive bruise, but won’t remember any of it.
‘I’m so terrified of Mike’s violent episodes that we’re sleeping in twin beds with a 4ft gap and a chest of drawers between us.’
She said she could hear her husband punching the chest in the night.
‘We tried sleeping in different rooms for a while but we missed each other,’ added Mrs Howley.
‘I love Mike dearly but I can’t describe the devastation this has caused.’
Mr Howley showed the first symptoms of his disorder in 2008 when he started twitching and mumbling in his sleep.
He initially blamed stress and broken
sleep caused by his new job as head of English at a London college of
further education that involved a 70-mile commute from the
Northamptonshire home he shares with his wife and their 16-year-old son,
Mrs Howley became increasingly worried about his behaviour in his sleep when his mumbling and twitches turned into swearing and punching.
She said: ‘Mike was shocked and horrified when I told him how much he’d hurt me.
‘He didn’t remember doing it and didn’t understand what was happening to him. He’s a gentle man in real life and barely even swears, so it was difficult for him to take in.
‘For a while, we put pillows in between us, but Mike would just throw them on the floor and attack me.
‘I was exhausted and didn’t know how I could carry on. I’d spend at least 20 minutes every night cowering on the floor in the dark and the cold.
‘One night he punched me twice in the back of my head, hard and fast. I thought he was going to kill me.’
Retired English teacher Mrs Howley, 57, became especially alarmed after reading about Brian Thomas, a devoted husband from Neath, South Wales, who strangled his wife while dreaming.
Mr Howley, 60, visited his GP and was referred to Papworth Hospital’s sleep clinic in Cambridge, where he was diagnosed with REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD), a chronic and progressive syndrome that causes sufferers to imitate their dreams in an intense or violent way.
REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder is a chronic and progressive syndrome that causes sufferers to imitate their dreams in an intense or violent way, which can develop into Parkinsons disease
He is now taking melatonin, a hormone active in controlling the body clock that has partially helped subdue him at night.
He also plans to quit his job to reduce stress. Mrs Howley said the drug therapy helped control symptoms, but there was no cure.
She added: ‘The clinic also told us that research has shown that some patients with RBD will go on to develop Parkinson’s, so we are just taking each day as it comes.
'I’ve learnt to cope with it but I’m permanently exhausted because I rarely sleep properly either.’
Mr Howley said: ‘I don’t remember what’s happened in the night and feel guilty when Linda tells me in the morning.
‘A few times I’ve woken myself up from punching something, or falling on the floor.
‘It’s difficult to get my head round because for years I believed I didn’t even dream.
‘I survive on less than five hours’ sleep a night but I’m more concerned for Linda’s safety, which is why I don’t object to her idea of sleeping in separate beds.’