Are Parts of Your Dissociative System Too Active at Night?

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Many people with DID wake up to find that their parts have been active while they thought the were sleeping.  They weren’t sleeping; they were switching.  This means that their body (there is only one) wasn’t getting the benefits of sleep.  Poor sleep can make daytime harder.  You are on edge, you dissociate more and take longer to recover from being triggered, etc.

It isn’t great that your parts aren’t interrupting your job or your dinner out with friends.  Their nighttime actions are costing you mentally and physically.  This isn’t good for any of you.

So why do they do it?  They may not have a chance to be a part of what goes on during the day.  If you have little internal communication and you aren’t making space or time for them, it makes sense.

Child parts certainly don’t belong in the office or at a bar.  Really.  So this is not suggesting that at all.  But they ma need a sense of welcome and space from you.  And then, like lots of kids and teens, they need boundaries.

Some people with DID have the diagnosis but remain unsure that it fits them, or horrified that their therapist thinks that they have DID.  It signifies damage and deficit rather than being the logical outcome of a very painful childhood.

There may be such fear of parts and of having DID that parts are consciously or unconsciously pushed away.  Like Einstein’s ideas about matter, parts don’t go away because you want them to not be there.  They are in there, with all of their energy.  They take advantage of the nighttime to express what they want or need.

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What can be done about parts that get active at night?

Sleep is essential for health, and without a healthy body it is very hard to heal from trauma.  Being unkind to parts isn’t the answer.  But ignoring this isn’t smart.

First:  Make it clear to your system that being active at night is a price too high to pay.  Make your home, and your bedroom, appealing to parts.  Don’t have any sense of what that would look like?  Go shopping and let your system speak to you.  The blanket that catches your eye, the stuffed animal you come back to 3 times in the store.  Parts may be telling you something.  Buy second-hand stuff if you want to experiment on the cheap.  Your system will give you feedback.

Make it harder for parts to act.  Lock up things you don’t want them to have access to.  Block things on your phone or computer while leaving out things like a note from you and your therapist about going back to sleep.

Use their actions as clues to what is missing for them during the day.  If they cooked something you never eat, they might want a different menu.  If they watched shows you don’t watch, take note of the theme and try out a short show then see how they react.

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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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