Does alexithymia moderate the relation between stress and general sleep experiences? Academic Article uri icon


  • A tendency for experiencing unusual dream and sleep-wake transition phenomena (e.g., recurrent dreams, hypnagogic hallucinations, and confusion upon awakening), labeled general sleep experiences (GSEs), is linked with stress as well as psychological distress, explicit as well as covert. We hypothesized that alexithymia may moderate the relationship between stress and GSEs. Undergraduate students ( N = 187) completed online questionnaires; Three months later, n = 78 of them reported perceived stress and dreaming each day for 14 days. Regression analyses for trait data and multilevel modeling for daily diary data both revealed a pattern of two competing alexithymic mechanisms: difficulty in identifying feelings was related to increased GSEs, whereas externally-oriented thinking was related to decreased GSEs. As hypothesized, a cross-level interaction was found: daily stress predicted daily GSEs of the following night, only among those who reported difficulty identifying their emotions. It seems that those who experience GSEs following stress, tend to be internally-oriented (i.e., notice their inner experiences), yet find it difficult to understand and identify those experiences. GSEs seem to represent a nocturnal manifestation of unprocessed emotion.

publication date

  • February 1, 2018