Fragmented Sleep, Fragmented Mind: The Role of Sleep in Dissociative Symptoms

Perspectives in Psychological Science

Authors:

  1. Dalena van der Kloet, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
  2. Harald Merckelbach, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
  3. Timo Giesbrecht, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
  4. Steven Jay Lynn, Binghamton University (SUNY), New York, USA
  5. Dalena van der Kloet, Maastricht University, The Netherlands

Abstract

In psychopathology, dissociation typically refers to a disturbance in the normal integration of thoughts, feelings, and experiences into consciousness and memory. In this article, we review the literature on how sleep disturbances relate to dissociative symptoms and memory failure.

We contend that this body of research offers a fresh perspective on dissociation. Specifically, we argue that dissociative symptoms are associated with a labile sleep–wake cycle, in which dreamlike mentation invades the waking state, produces memory failures, and fuels dissociative experiences.

The research domain of sleep and dissociation can accommodate the dominant idea in the clinical literature that trauma is the distal cause of dissociation, and it holds substantial promise to inspire new treatments for dissociative symptoms (e.g., interventions that focus on normalization of the sleep-wake cycle).

We conclude with worthwhile paths for further investigations and suggest that the sleep–dissociation approach may help reconcile competing interpretations of dissociative symptoms.

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16 Comments

  1. Jeannette Bartha

     /  03/01/2013

    Heck, I’m sitting here tires, drained, and sleep deprived… I’m ripe for a new memory.

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    • Me too. I’ve been struggling with sleep issues for so long, that finally in desperation I ordered one of those therapeutic daylight lamps that is supposed to help with things like Seasonal Affective Disorder, jet lag/time zone changes, and various sleep disorders. I researched very carefully before deciding which one to get, by checking out customer reviews and doctor recommendations.

      The expensive lamp arrived about a month ago. Now I just need to find the energy to take the thing out of the box, set it up, and read the directions on how to use it…

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      • Ah… sorry you have to moderate this, I recently decided to go ahead and use my real first name. I am Lynda, our Cattle Dog is Lady, LOL!

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      • Jeannette Bartha

         /  03/02/2013

        Lady, hum. I didn’t know lite lamps were meant to help with sleep.

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        • I didn’t know that those lamps could help with sleep, either, until I did the research on them. Apparently if you use them in the early morning, or whatever time of day you wish to be your early morning, it helps to reset your biological clock. I really need to unpack and set mine up so I can try it.

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          • Jeannette Bartha

             /  03/03/2013

            Oh. Yes, I’m aware of that. Can’t you just by a full-spectrum light bulb and sit near it and read? And, open all the curtains? just askin. What is special about those lamps? Are they for people who have very serious SAD?

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          • Good questions! Opening all the curtains isn’t an option because we live right in town, and my retired husband likes to be comfortable… sigh. “Do you like to sit around all day in your underwear” is one of those questions you never thing to ask before saying “I Do,” you know? Not that I wouldn’t have still married my wonderful sweet loving best-friend-husband anyway, I’m just saying.

            As for just getting a full-spectrum lightbulb and putting it in your reading lamp, I actually did that. For the past 10 years or so, pretty much all of the lightbulbs in the house have been full-spectrum. But that didn’t seem to make much difference, not that I could tell, anyway. Then when I was researching these lamps, I read that they have to have a particular sort of… uh…. hmm… a technical term, which at the moment escapes me. 🙂

            I’ll look it up and let you know. Taking the dog for a walk/jog in the sunlight helps the best, I think. And, it’s free. Plus there’s the added benefit that when I come home after jogging with the dog, I can tell my husband that I’m too tired to cook dinner.

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          • Jeannette Bartha

             /  03/03/2013

            Cafe curtains might help. You can’t be seen outside and the top 1/2 of the window is open… 😉

            No need to tell me more about the lamp – I was just offering some ideas that might save some $$ so you can buy books!

            Like that too tired to make dinner thing – if that would get someone else to make dinner – I’d start jogging right now!

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          • Cafe curtains…. hm…

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          • Jeannette Bartha

             /  03/05/2013

            or shutters only on the bottom. If you get cafe curtains that are a little above the middle of the window, you get even more privacy. Just sayin..

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          • Great idea, thanks, Jeannette!

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          • Jeannette Bartha

             /  03/06/2013

            Anytime.

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  2. Now THAT makes sense!

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    • Jeannette Bartha

       /  02/28/2013

      I think sleep problems make sense too. How many times have we been sleep deprived and had difficulty functioning with the demands of the next day?

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      • So true. My gosh, in looking back over my life — serious sleep deprivation occurred during and immediately after severely traumatic events, and it was only after I had gone without any decent sleep for a long period of time, that the “dissociative” symptoms occurred.

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