Ever had a near-death experience?

A Massey University psychologist is seeking participants for a study on people who have had a brush with death to find out how the experience has affected their sleep.

Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua, who specialises in near-death experiences, is seeking 200 people aged 18 and over who have had a close shave with death to learn whether this has changed their sleeping patterns, for better or worse.

Tassell-Matamua said there was anecdotal evidence that people who had been on death's doorstep - whether through illness or accidents - experienced changes to sleep.


But little was known about whether people needed less sleep, whether their quality of sleep was affected and how their quality of life changed.

After a near-death incident, people sometimes reported a decreased need for sleep while others reported an increased need, she said.

"Some people may also report difficulty with falling or staying asleep, and/or insomnia."

Particularly, she wants to compare the results of people who have had a near-death "incident" with those who've also had what is known as a near-death "experience", which could accompany but was not integral to a brush with death.

It involved intense psychological or spiritual effects that could trigger profound and long-lasting changes in a person's priorities and perspectives.

A near-death experience could "be a situation where you were dead or close to death, but still felt something significant happened during this time".

"Some people report leaving their physical body; moving through a tunnel; seeing a bright light; having a life review; meeting with deceased relatives or spiritual beings; among other features," she said.

"This experience may cause significant and fundamental life changes, including a change in sleep quality."

Some people may experience the first - a near-death incident - without having a near-death experience.

Tassell-Matamua hoped people from both groups would come forward to take part in the study.

Massey University psychologist Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua. Photo / Supplied
Massey University psychologist Dr Natasha Tassell-Matamua. Photo / Supplied

Examining sleep patterns across the two groups would provide a better understanding of the impacts on sleep and people's perspectives on life, she said.

Part of her interest in doing the study was based on the documented therapeutic value for people in learning about what a near-death experience entails, and the impact it could have on someone's frame of mind - even if they had not actually experienced it themselves.

Tassell-Matamua was an international researcher into the psychology of near-death experiences and, with sociologist Dr Mary Murray, undertook the first major research on people's accounts of near-death experiences in New Zealand.

She was also supervising a number of master's and doctoral research projects into the phenomenon.

The online survey takes 15 to 20 minutes; participants who complete the questionnaire can enter a prize draw to win one of 10 $50 MTA vouchers to acknowledge their time in contributing to the research.