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Sleep apnea and disturbing dreams.

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I suffer from sleep apnea and GERD, although not officially diagnosed; I recently retired from the military and there were “key words” missing from my out-process physical, so I cannot receive treatment from the VA for the sleep disporders or GERD.

I frequently become so fatigued at work from lack of sleep that once home, I cannot recall my commute ‘getting home’. I will wander in a dream-like state around the house until bedtime and not recall anything the next day.

Perhaps unrelated, but also strange, is that if I lie on my left side, I have difficulty falling asleep but I sleep more soundly. And if on my right, I fall asleep quickly, but I snore greatly and my dreams are vividly bizarre and disturbing. “left side dreaming” is more normal. Sleeping on my right side, I will dream in full color and typically have at least 4 of my 5 senses, with full recall upon awakening.

The trouble is, with such graphic dreams, the full sensory awareness of often gruesome scenes will stay with me the following day. One example is a dream I had (right side dreaming), where I watched a vehicle accident unfold. As the observer, I heard the screeching of tires, the clash of metal and witnessed the destructive effects in absolute fine detail of the collision on the bodies of the vehicle’s occupants. Approaching the aftermath, I could smell the mix of hot motor oil, gasoline and blood mixed with the engine coolant spilled at the site. These sensations stayed with me the entire day. I could recall at will, any portion of the dream as if it were a real incident I had witnessed.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sleep apnea and disturbing dreams.

Answered by on -


First — Why are you driving? If you are so fatigued you can’t remember getting home, you probably weren’t in any state to be on the highway. Please don’t risk your own and other people’s lives this way. You have a serious problem and you need to get to the bottom of it before you hurt someone.

Please make an appointment to see your doctor. If possible, you need to get a sleep study done to ascertain whether or not your fatigue and strange dreams are indeed from sleep apnea. If they are, you might benefit from using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. A CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway does not collapse when you breathe in and you get uninterrupted sleep. If you try the CPAP machine for a week and the fatigue and disturbing dreams cease, that’s the end of the matter.

If the sleep study doesn’t confirm apnea or if it does and using a CPAP doesn’t help, please talk to your doctor about whether a diagnostic cranial CT scan might be in order. The sidedness of your dreaming and the multisensory experiencing of the dreams concern me. I don’t mean to alarm you but sometimes disturbing sensory hallucinations signal that there is something amiss in the brain. It just makes sense to at least check out the possibility with your doctor.

Please write back and let me know what you find out.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Sleep apnea and disturbing dreams.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Sleep apnea and disturbing dreams.. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.