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Gabe, S. (1950). The Nervous Child. VIII, 1949: Neurotic Sleep Disturbances in Children. Melitta Sperling. Pp. 28–46.. Psychoanal Q., 19:617-618.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Nervous Child. VIII, 1949: Neurotic Sleep Disturbances in Children. Melitta Sperling. Pp. 28–46.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:617-618

The Nervous Child. VIII, 1949: Neurotic Sleep Disturbances in Children. Melitta Sperling. Pp. 28–46.

S. Gabe

Melitta Sperling discusses the psychodynamics of neurotic sleep disturbances in children, illustrating each clinical picture with case material. Severe sleep disturbance occurring in early infancy, not due to any discoverable physical cause, is attributable to rejection and neglect by the mother. It is an ominous symptom, foreshadowing probable later psychotic disturbance. Acute sleep disturbance often precedes the outbreak of a severe neurosis or psychosis. Nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking are traceable to the Oedipal conflict. The dynamics of the nightmare is comparable to a phobia in which there is projection of aggressive

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impulses so that the internal danger is transformed into an external one. The warning signal of anxiety wakens the dreamer when aggressive impulses threaten to break through the disguise. When the pressure of repressed impulses for discharge is great, they are acted out in the form of night terrors with amnesia. In sleepwalking the urge for discharge is even stronger. The sleepwalker's activity is an attempted running away from the danger of succumbing to homosexual and sadistic impulses.

Sleep disturbances caused by the onset of acute psychosomatic symptoms during the night represent the immediate discharge of sexual and aggressive impulses through somatic channels. Sleep phobias are defenses against hostile, destructive wishes aimed at the mother. Compulsive rituals before retiring can serve to counteract phobic anxiety. In children with depressions insomnia results from a fear of sleep which is equated with dying. The fear of death in these patients stems from a fear of retaliation for oral sadistic impulses. In skin disturbances the scratching is a means of avoiding sleep which is equated with death; the dermatological condition covers up a depressive state.

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Article Citation

Gabe, S. (1950). The Nervous Child. VIII, 1949. Psychoanal. Q., 19:617-618

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