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Lewin, B.D. (1946). Sleep, the Mouth, and the Dream Screen. Psychoanal Q., 15:419-434.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 15:419-434

Sleep, the Mouth, and the Dream Screen

Bertram D. Lewin, M.D.

In this paper I make use of an old familiar conception of Freud's—the oral libido—to elucidate certain manifestations associated with sleep; and I apply ideas gained thereby to other observations of psychoanalytic practice and to psychoanalytic theory.

Freud, in The Interpretation of Dreams (10), assumes a wish to sleep, which he makes the prime reason for all dreaming, the dream being the great guardian of sleep. Of this wish he has little to say. In the Introductory Lectures (11), at the start of the discussion of dreams, he makes his famous, humorous statement about what we do when we go to sleep. He tells us that we strip off most of our ego with our clothes, glasses, false teeth and other removables, and assimilate ourselves to the babe newborn, or the babe in utero. This comparison struck M. J. Eisler (4) forcibly, and he reported several cases of sleep disturbance (not entirely lucid ones perhaps), which were intended to show that sleep was a regressive phenomenon, a return to a hypothetical preoral or apnoeic stage, such as might be imagined for the unborn child. Incidentally, however, Eisler made the important remark that the first going to sleep we know of takes place when the nursling has drunk its fill at the breast. Recently in the concluding remarks of a valuable symposium on sleep disturbances, Simmel (28) saw fit to call attention to Eisler's old statement, thinking it worthy of note even today. Another author, Isakower (16), in an important paper, turns to the same familiar idea to explain certain hypnagogic phenomena that precede sleep and sleep-like states.


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