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.
This is important work!
I wish you the best in your healing journey, with lots ‘n lots of genuine sleep and rest.
Copyright © 2008-2021 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
It’s funny. I just got a Fitbit that tracks my sleep stages and when I’m awake during the night. They say being awake for many short periods, like even a minute or less is normal.
I have spots in the middle of times I KNOW I was asleep, when the Fitbit shows I was awake for 20-30 minutes with no memory of it.
Fitbit (etc.) The watch to watch alters watching you at night. Lol
interesting to see kind of proof that something is going on. Almost feels diagnostic doesn’t it esp if DID is suspected. Also great for sleepwalkers I’m guessing. And those taking sleep meds that they can be up and about and maybe even driving and not know it.
it feel like we dont been sleeping. this spring uave been tuff. and we been really frusterated and switchhy. we wake up a lot at night. and we switch a lot at night. and we wake up hearing yelling and crying.
today we been up sints 3:40 am. we heared kids crying. we thout it be a dream but then we was all the way awake and it was inside little kids..we tried diffrent things for a hour to help them calm down and go back to sleep. but nothing work. so finaly we gave up and got out of bed.
i wish we would sleep. caden be so egsawsted. we be so tired all of us. we wish them little inside kids would sleep all night. we dont no how to make them. we still be having slumber parties some times. but mostely we need to just sleep.
i wis we cn slep
we haf bd drms
we wac up scremn
i nfr slep not saf
I am wondering if there are long term physical problems from not sleeping like non DID bodies? I had back surgery requiring long term recovery. Everything was going as planned….well, there are some flashbacks but physically as scheduled!! Recently had some seemingly minor physical problems but at a check up the Doctor said they were signs of exhaustion. I laughed. Don’t even feel more tired than usual. But wondering if switching during sleep resulting in loss of body rest would account for it. Do definitely notice a difference since stopping the sleeping meds!
When I had surgery, it activated many parts in my system. I never felt more exhausted-physically and emotionally because each insider was having different and varied responses to the surgery and the body sensations and the recovery. Many didn’t understand what happened.
I do believe that not sleeping because parts are active does impact physical health. I have found that internal communication about what parts need to sleep or be comfortable really helps.
I hope your healing continues to go well!
Take good care!
I agree with Neo. I cannot help but think that loosing sleep at night is not the most healthful thing for us. Both Kathy (here) and Laura have spoken about this issue. I asked Laura about this (The Big Questions Answered by Laura, the DID Email Consultant). I am going to copy and paste part of my question and Laura’s response here because I think that it may help.
My Question: “Is it possible for our insiders to be out and about at night but not necessarily physically out of bed doing things and that is why I am tired?”
Laura’s answer: “Are you asking if internal activity (that is, your insiders doing things like having conversations or meetings or doing their own thing internally while, to all external appearances, the body is asleep) would make you feel tired in the morning?
Yes it can. DID consumes a lot of energy, whether insiders are coming and going into the physical body or whether they’re just doing their own activities inside. Are you able to converse with your insiders about what they’re doing during the nighttime hours? Maybe you can work out an agreement for everyone to take some quiet time so the body can be more rested in the morning.
It’s probably also worth double checking that the body really is asleep that whole time. I think it’s great that you’ve taken precautions to make sure you are staying safely in your room! But it’s possible that someone is doing something at night that doesn’t involve wandering or anything else unsafe or unreasonable. Night might be their only opportunity to have the time they desire, and it isn’t necessarily something to worry about, but if this is what’s happening, you will want to learn more about what’s going on. Then you can work out an agreement to meet both the needs of the insider(s) responsible and the body’s need for rest.”
So, what Neo said is key here – building communication with your insiders. As Laura suggests, it is important to find out who is out and about at night and what purpose that serves. Then you can maybe work on those things in your awake time so your insiders do not have to do that at night. You can also start building agreements to have everyone sleeping at the same time so you can get more rest.
To be honest, I have not worked this out for myself yet. I have had a few successes but, when I am going through difficult work with my T (which seems to be constant right now), I do not have the same level of peace at night. Certainly, something to keep working at.
I am posting on this article because a few of us have been talking about issues of sleep, maybe switching during sleep, waking up from a potential switch when we thought that we were asleep, etc. Kathy offers wonderful insight into this issue in this blog post. I encourage others to check it out. Laura also answered some questions I had about this topic with great insight (and comforting thoughts). Check out what she had to say by clicking on the link to — The Big Questions Answered by Laura, the DID Email Consultant — on the right-hand side of the page under “Popular Posts”.
I certainly wake up more tired than I was when I went to sleep often and find that I will be triggered into sleep during the day (i.e., all of a sudden I will not be able to keep my eyes open and I go into what I think is a deep sleep and am out for hours). I have not checked this out with my insiders yet like suggested but plan on doing so when I sort some more pressing issues out.
Always anxious to hear the experiences and suggestions of others.
@ME+WE. Thanks for saying this. I am seeing on my Fitbit I’m awake at night when I don’t know but also, I’m waking up in my chair not having a clue I was even sleepy never mind falling asleep. It can be so fast I didn’t even miss any of the tv show it almost seems. Sometimes I will see an image in that split second – a toy truck, a blue boat, just weird things. I e thought littles were showing me things, and might be, but I didn’t really think of these periods as switching rather than seconds of sleep.
I think I’m switching way more than I know. My T said she thought there were 5 switches that occured in my hour this week. Yikes. I love alone. Who would know.
I will admit to wishing I had an alter with just enough love of cleaning that I would wake up to a neat home and an empty sink, laundry folded. At least if I didn’t sleep there is something to show for it. Lol. Thanks Me+We for helping me think about this.
Thank you Be for pointing me back to this posting I made in 2017!!! Gosh, things have not changed a huge amount but I think for the better overall. I still have periods where I know that my insiders are active at night. I will wake up panicked and I know that it is not a nightmare as such because I will have a strong sense of one of my insiders with me or know that they are because they have certain little physical quirks that let me know that they are there. And, I do not need the same number of big sleeps when I come out of therapy sessions or have had some triggering events.
So, all I can say is that, the more work that I do with my insiders, the calmer that my system gets overall and that helps with my sleep patterns. It is like the more that they voice their stuff, mostly with my T and me, the more the intensity of the emotional response diffuses over time. It is still there but has lost some of its frantic energy. When my system as a whole is feeling calmer, my day is calmer as well as my nights.