Writing to the end of Dreamrunner has coincided with a tragic case that has come to light in the UK, where a devoted husband, Brian Thomas, strangled his wife of 40 years while having a nightmare about youths breaking into the camper van they were sleeping in together. My heart goes out to this couple and their family. The fact that I’ve been exploring the impact of a similar situation in Dreamrunner means that I’m not only aware of this case of homocidal somnambulism but quite a few others besides; my main source book for the novel was Carlos Schenck’s excellent ‘Paradox Lost: Midnight in the Battleground of Sleep and Dreams’, which details many case studies, interviewing couples whose lives are affected by violent sleep disorders.
What is going on in a person’s psyche when they kill in a dream? What’s the symbolic meaning of responding to a perceived threat (in the Brian Thomas case, boy-racers in a carpark disturbed the couple’s sleep and prompted his nightmare about a break-in) with violence? I don’t have the answers, but I do have some thoughts about alternative ways of tackling violent sleep disorders other than just taking a course of pills which represses the condition without addressing the underlying cause, and I look at these other possibilities in my novel. Dreaming is powerful, sleep disorders are common, and in a state of automatism, where the mind is no longer in control of the body, terrible things can happen.
Parasomnias – sleep disorders – are coming more into the public eye, and this can only be a good thing for sufferers who often think they are losing their sanity until a doctor in the know is able to diagnose them. Dreams are all too often shrugged off as ethereal phantasmagoria, but when something this tragic happens in the ‘real’ world as a direct result of a dream, it becomes brutally apparent that the unconscious mind is a power to be reckoned with.