The Psychic Life of Dreams
In a dream, the psychic life of a man continues, albeit in an altered form. Consciousness is excluded, but this is more brought to the surface by the unconscious contents of mental life. Therefore, even in a dream, a person experiences what torments, oppresses or frightens him in reality, even what he has pushed from consciousness into the unconscious spheres of personality, what he does not want to admit to himself, which he simply will not know about. The pathological contents of the psychic life, negative emotions, unresolved problems and emotional conflicts can disturb sleep just as they disturb a person’s peace of mind in reality. That is why neurotic personalities suffer from sleep disorders already in childhood. They manifest in different ways: in insomnia, restless sleep, night terrors and sleepwalking.
Organic and Psychogenic Causes of Insomnia in Children
When a child cannot fall asleep, the first thing to think about is an organic disease – he may have a fever, he may be in pain, or he may have indigestion and the like. Only when physical sleep disturbances are ruled out should the psychogenic origin of insomnia be considered. Such insomnia occurs more often as the child gets older, and most often in puberty and adolescence.
Psychogenic Insomnia and Children’s Passions
Psychogenic insomnia is sometimes not a real neurosis, but serves the child to satisfy his little passions, which are forbidden by the educators, in solitude and darkness, when he is free from adult supervision. There are children who can’t fall asleep right away because they secretly bite their nails or masturbate before bed. Neurosis cannot be talked about even when the child is not sleeping in order to stalk the parents and reveal a secret that he cannot figure out. It is most often about a child’s need to satisfy their sexual curiosity. Then, from the bed, pretending to be asleep, he eavesdrops on the conversation of adults or tries to see them when undressing or during intercourse.
Neurotic Insomnia in Spoiled Children
Neurotic insomnia occurs in very spoiled children who are highly dependent on adults and are not accustomed to being alone. In bed, in the dark, without the presence of an educator, such a child often feels abandoned. Then anxiety grips him, and his imagination works vigorously under the influence of fear. In the twilight, the child suffers from the delusion of the senses, certain objects in the room seem to him to be monsters. All this is the reason why a child cannot fall asleep, is afraid, cries, calls his parents, wants to go to bed with them.
Emotional Conflicts and Insomnia in Adolescents
In older children and adolescents, insomnia is caused by various emotional conflicts that cannot be relieved. The child cannot fall asleep because severe conflicts between the parents cause a feeling of insecurity. Or he is tormented by jealousy of his brother, sister, stepfather, stepmother. We knew an 11-year-old boy who contracted neurotic insomnia when his widowed mother remarried. He was very jealous of his stepfather. He manifested this in defiance and aggression towards him, and in sobriety towards his mother. He could not sleep in the evening until his parents, who slept with him in the same room, fell asleep. The meaning of the boy’s insomnia was not hard to guess. He wanted to prevent his mother and stepfather from having sexual intimacy. Very ambitious, vainly raised children sometimes cannot sleep for fear of school grades, for fear that they have not done or responded well enough. Feelings of inferiority among other children and concern for their affirmation in a peer group can also be a cause of insomnia, especially during puberty and adolescence. In those years, he supports insomnia and obsession with sexual problems, disorientation between them, that is, the feeling of his sexual insufficiency.
Addressing Neurotic Insomnia in Children
Because of such different causes of neurotic insomnia in childhood, neither her cure can be unique nor specific. In each case, one should consider what is causing it, and eliminate those causes. If a child is spoiled, he should be made independent and systematically encouraged; if he is jealous, he should be dealt with in a stimulating and emotionally warm way; if he is sexually curious, he should be explained what interests him; so-called bad habits should not be suppressed by force, etc. With such a procedure, insomnia will disappear, without sedatives.