Could You Use Stimulus Control Therapy to Work With Parts?


Stimulus Control Therapy is a behavioral strategy for insomnia.  Put simply, you create a sleep environment that subconsciously messages you that you are there…to sleep.  You do not remain in bed if you can’t sleep, but you also don’t use your bed for hanging out during the day.  Your actions are calm and purposeful, and take advantage of what we know torpedoes sleep.  Stimulus Control Therapy has been studied fairly intensely, and I think it should be considered part of sleep hygiene for adults with DID, not just treatment for insomnia.

Even if you don’t have insomnia, you will have periods of stress that make falling asleep or staying asleep more difficult.  Having DID routinely makes daily life stressors challenging.  Dealing with triggers that crop up regularly because your trauma happened in regular life situations, supporting your complex system, and learning new and better coping skills, is a lot of work on a good day!  Most adults with DID have sleep issues at some point, so is almost a given that having sleep strategies already in place would help.

What does using Stimulus Control Therapy principles look like in daily living?

Your regular routine is to avoid hanging out in bed during the day.  You get up at the same time 7 days/week.  The lights go on in the morning, with natural light predominating, and they dim as evening approaches.  You consciously and purposefully control your nighttime environment to bias your brain toward sleep.  This includes your nightclothes, what you watch or read, who you speak with, and even what kinds of lightbulbs you have.  Your actions at night signal sleep at a nervous system level.  This isn’t meditation or positive imagery.  Most people are too tired or stressed to dig deeply into that.  This is crockpot therapy; set it up as a routine and an environment, and let it do the work for you!


But How Does it Improve Communication With Parts?

If you have created an environment that is appealing to more of your system, and you can let them know that you have a plan for dealing with sleep problems when they arise, you are using the wise adult part of yourself to support the emotion-driven parts.

You are telling them with your actions and plans that you have their back, you are not flailing around in distress.  Parts of a DID system are born from trauma.  They are the solution to feeling intractable pain with no source of help or comfort.

Using Stimulus Control Therapy principles gives them hope that someone is helping, and that someone is you.

For more on sleep and DID, read  Could Getting Better Sleep Decrease Your Response to Trauma Triggers?  and Sleep And DID: Could Better Sleep Be As Important As Therapy?  .


Published by Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist and a licensed massage therapist, in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment, with a focus on sensory processing issues and treating the consequences of complex trauma. I am the author of four books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone". Over the years I have lectured about trauma treatment and pediatric development.

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