The sleeping, singing tyrant

Dear Annie: When he is awake, my husband is a mild-mannered person who rarely raises his voice. He is not very talkative and reads most of the day.

However, when he sleeps, he becomes someone else. He talks; he laughs; he sings; he argues; he flings his arms around as if trying to fight and talks in a slurred voice as if he were inebriated. Last night, he sat up in bed and talked a blue streak to the dog, who ran off scared. He has pushed, poked and prodded me in his sleep, which of course awakens me. I am then unable to get back to sleep for hours and am miserable the next day. I fear that his behavior will escalate and become violent. During his episodes, I give him a push, and he usually rolls over and goes back to sleep.

Before bed, he usually drinks one beer, and to help him sleep, he takes one 3-milligram tablet of melatonin. This behavior has evolved over the past year. He is retired and over 80 years old.

We have only one bedroom, making it impossible for him to sleep elsewhere. Could this be a medical problem? Should he speak to his general practitioner? Or does he have a split personality that only emerges at night? Any suggestion would be most welcome. — Tired of Living With Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dear Tired: There are a few possible explanations here, but rest assured that none of them involves your husband’s having a split personality. It could be the melatonin. Some people report having extremely vivid and bizarre dreams after taking the sleep aid. If this is the case for your husband, intense dreams could be causing him to act things out physically in his sleep. It’s also possible that he suffers from REM sleep behavior disorder or night terrors.

Whatever the cause, the fact that he screams and flails is reason enough to discuss the issue with his doctor, who can refer him to a sleep specialist. If he’s resistant to getting help, remind him that this impacts your health, too (lack of sleep can cause a host of health problems) — and he’s scaring the poor dog.