I sleep with my Mind’s eye open

30 Sep I sleep with my Mind’s eye open

Some people who have suffered chronic insomnia tend to perceive less amount of sleep. This misconception of sleep causes one predisposition to recognize their sleep as wakefulness without objective evidence of sleep disturbances. This topic has been examined in Belgium for a group of researchers in the University of Leuven[1] and in California in the University of California[2].   They had as aim to investigate the mechanisms underlying this tendency and examined the role of pre-sleep cognitive arousal and overgeneralization.

The perception of insufficient sleep generates in the patients anxiety and a distress about sleeplessness and daytime dysfunctions, which, in combination with high levels of physiological arousal and emotional distress, directly interfere with getting sleep according. Harvey (2002). Moreover, in order to escape this sleep-related anxiety, people who believe that they suffer from a lack of sleep tend to employ some healthy behaviour establishing maladaptive sleep habits such us remaining longer in bed, drinking excessive alcohol or taking sedatives, and cancelling appointments to take a nap. The patients can overestimate their sleep onset latency (SOL) and underestimate their total sleep time (TST), relative to objective measures.

The study developed in Belgium provides data that show that the misperception of sleep occurs in two different cases:

  • in the case of estimations for a single night, which is uniquely associated with excessive arousal, and
  • in the case of estimations across multiple nights, which is uniquely linked to the tendency to overgeneralize.

This topic has implications for assessment, definition, and treatment and involves the objective measures trying to figure out the importance of the sleep studies for a precise diagnostic and treatment in this sleep disorders.


[1] Takano K, Boddez Y, Raes F. I sleep with my Mind’s eye open: Cognitive arousal and overgeneralization underpin the misperception of sleep. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2016 Sep;52:157-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2016.04.007. Epub 2016 Apr 26.

[2] Harvey AG, Tang NK. (Mis)perception of sleep in insomnia: A puzzle and a resolution. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 138(1), Jan 2012, 77-101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0025730.