August 8, 2010
Switching in Your Sleep -– Are you Snoozing or Secretly Awake?
In situations where dissociative survivors feel like they don’t lose time, it can be helpful to ask a lot of questions about how they experience life, time, recall, etc. There are a wide variety of reasons why systems get so tightly shut down from switching, (or from the appearance of switching), so it really depends on what else is going on. There could be other ways that the insiders are coming out, and for reasons that would take a lot of exploration, the inside parts could be hiding themselves from the host personalities.
Sleeping can mask a lot of switching.
Switching during your sleep is one way of losing time when you don’t know that you are losing time.
This is not sleep-walking. Certain parts of the dissociative system are sleeping deep inside, but the body of the dissociative person is actually awake and at least one part of the system is completely aware of what is happening. It may be that one layer of the system is awake while other layers of the system believe they are sleeping. While some parts sleep, other parts are awake and actively involved with activities.
If you have dissociative identity disorder, how many hours of the day do you sleep? Even though you assume you are sleeping, are you really asleep?
Sometimes dissociative survivors will tell me they sleep long hours everyday or they take frequent naps. With careful examination of that sleeping time, it is not unusual for the hosts to adamantly believe they are sleeping, while other parts of the system wake up, get up, and go about their own activities. When the insiders are finished with their tasks, they lay back down, go back to sleep. A few minutes (or hours) later, the host wakes back up, with absolutely no awareness that other parts were out and active during what felt like “sleep time”.
- The host can feel like they were just dreaming.
- Or they may wonder why they aren’t feeling rested after such a long sleep.
- Or certain inside parts truly blocked the loss of time from the other parts of the system.
- Or the host parts “thought” they were resting, and would say, yes, they were doing that, but when they actually think about it, they don’t remember actually doing it.
This type of sleep-hidden switching can also happen for DID survivors sleep in shorter chunks of time as well. If someone is “always tired”, it is easy enough to hide the additional hours of waking by the normal feeling of “I’m always tired”.
Sometimes, dissociative survivors just don’t think about how much time they are losing – it is a normal way of life, and calling attention to the time loss is what’s new and different. As far as they are concerned, they have always been dissociative, and they have always switched, they have always had missing chunks, they have always had to scramble or cover for missing information, and they have always slept weird hours. To think of life as a continuous state is completely foreign.
For treatment purposes, it is important for dissociative survivors to ask their systems why switching to other parts would need to be hidden and disguised through sleep.
- Why are these parts hiding so much from you?
- What are they doing?
- Are they going anywhere?
- What keeps them from doing whatever they need to do without having to make you “sleepy”?
- Why do you need to be asleep for them to be out?
- Is this a re-enactment from history or do they have their own lives going out completely outside of your awareness?
- What do they know that you don’t know?
- Who do they know that you don’t know?
Getting to know the parts on the other side of the dissociative sleep wall is important. Trying to build a connection and establish some version of communication with these insiders is essential for your healing.
Kathy Broady LCSW
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