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The Role of Sleep in Managing PTSD

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Do you have PTSD and have trouble sleeping? PTSD is the acronym for Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder, and it’s most often caused by exposure to a traumatic or scary event. This can include witnessing violence, an assault, an accident, or being involved in a natural disaster. In rarer instances, people can develop PTSD from hearing about someone else’s traumatic event, watching a traumatic event on TV, or reading a book that contains traumatic events.

Unwanted memories, nightmares, and sleep disturbances often plague individuals with PTSD. Sleep disturbances are particularly problematic because individuals with PTSD need to get an adequate amount of sleep for them to integrate and process their traumatic memories so that they can move forward. Let’s take a look at how sleep and PTSD affect each other.

How does lack of proper sleep affect an individual living with PTSD?

Getting enough restful sleep is essential for everyone, but it’s particularly important for those with PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder sleeping problems can lead to increased anxiety, anger, and irritability, impaired memory, lack of concentration, poor attention span, increased nightmares, and chronic fatigue. In other words, as sleep quality decreases, the symptoms of PTSD increase in severity.

What are the psychological impacts on the body resulting from lack of sleep?

Lack of sleep from PTSD is sometimes referred to as sleep trauma, and it’s detrimental to the individual’s mental well-being. It can cause:

  • Mood Problems – Lack of sleep can lead to increased anger, frustration, and sadness and fewer moments of happiness, contentment, and peace.
  • Cognitive Impairment – Individuals suffering from lack of sleep or good quality sleep tend to have reduced attention spans, an inability to concentrate, and problems forming memories. They may also have difficulty solving problems and making decisions.
  • Increased Stress and Anxiety – Lack of sleep can cause an increase in feelings of anxiety and depression. A severe lack of sleep can even lead to symptoms of psychosis.
  • Reduced Ability to Regulate Emotions – Individuals who don’t sleep well may have difficulty regulating their emotions. This includes being unable to calm themselves after being emotionally stimulated. They may have a reduced tolerance for stressful situations, and they often have difficulty discerning the emotions of others.

What types of treatments are available to help those with PTSD get quality sleep?

For individuals who have trouble with sleep and Post-traumatic stress disorder, there are things they can do to help them get better rest at night.

  • Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy for sleep trauma has shown to be effective. This treatment focuses on changing an individual’s patterns of negative or unhelpful thinking patterns into helpful or useful thoughts while developing new coping strategies.
  • Utilize the Services of a Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist can evaluate individuals with PTSD and sleep disturbances and recommend certain medications, like anti-anxiety medicines and antidepressants, to help with symptoms.
  • Try Directed Dreaming – Directed dreaming or lucid dreaming occurs when you become aware that you are dreaming while you are asleep. Some individuals can control some aspects of their dreams while they are asleep. For individuals trying to get to sleep, creating a pleasant narrative in your mind may help them fall asleep faster.

What strategies can an individual use to create good sleep habits?

The first strategy to employ when trying to decrease your PTSD sleep deprivation is to dedicate your bedroom to sleep and intimacy with your partner. This means removing all electronic devices from the room, including TVs, radios, cell phones, and portable electronic devices. If you don’t have to get up at a certain time each morning, removing the alarm clock may also be beneficial.

  • Invest in Good Bedding – To get better sleep, you may need to purchase a higher quality mattress, sheets, blankets, and pillows.
  • Try a White Noise Machine – A fan, sounds of rainstorms, or the ocean may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
  • Create a Bedtime Routine – Create a bedtime routine that lets your body know it’s time for bed. This could include taking a hot shower, drinking a glass of milk, or simply meditating or reflecting for a few minutes each night before you finally go to bed.
  • Take Care of Yourself During the Day – Remember to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. This can help you feel better physically and wear you out so that you’re ready to sleep at your designated bedtime.

What are the benefits of getting quality sleep for those with PTSD?

If you have PTSD and sleep problems, getting enough sleep is critical for your mental and physical health and well-being. Once you start getting more restful sleep, you’ll notice that you can better regulate your emotions and prevent overreactions to emotional stimuli. You’ll be better able to solve problems, make decisions, remember things, and concentrate on your daily tasks. You may also notice a decrease in the severity and frequency of your nightmares and flashbacks, and you’ll feel better overall.

ptsd sleep problems

The Importance of Getting Help to Manage Your PTSD Sleep Problems

Getting help for your PTSD sleeping problems is critical when it comes to managing your PTSD symptoms so that you and your family members can move forward to live harmonious, healthy lives. Individuals with PTSD who get enough sleep often experience fewer emotional outbursts and flashbacks. They often experience less anxiety, and they feel less depressed. They’re also more awake during the day and feel better rested when they get up in the morning.

At Mind-Body Optimization, we can help you get better sleep if you have PTSD. We do this by offering counseling, psychiatric services, and personalized treatment plans. By providing multi-faceted treatment approaches to PTSD, we can help you gain better control over your emotional stability, improve your cognitive function and help you feel more rested in the morning.

To learn more about how we can help you with your sleep and PTSD, reach out online.