Sleep disorders: research in psychopathology and its practical implications

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1982 Jun;65(6):381-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.1982.tb00862.x.


This is a summary of research studies indicating a primary role of psychotherapy in the etiology of certain sleep disorders. Thus, chronic insomnia is associated with high levels of psychopathology and a personality profile characterized by internalization of emotions. Also, a greater number of stressful life events occurs at the year of onset of insomnia. Two additional sleep disorders (sleep-walking and night terrors in adults) are similarly associated with high levels of psychopathology. Although these two disorders share many common clinical and psychopathological characteristics, their psychological profiles and psychopathological correlates differ considerably. Sleepwalkers show a high incidence of personality disorders with generally active, outward behavioral patterns, whereas night terror sufferers are mostly anxious, depressed and phobic with an inhibition of outward expression of aggression. Based on these research findings a series of therapeutic recommendations is presented for the effective management of patients with insomnia, sleepwalking or night terrors.

MeSH terms

  • Dreams
  • Humans
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Research
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy
  • Somnambulism / psychology